School denies food poisoning

SICK: Nhlanhla Khumalo, 13, was treated for food poisoning. Pic. Mohau Mofokeng. 21/09/08. © Sowetan.
SICK: Nhlanhla Khumalo, 13, was treated for food poisoning. Pic. Mohau Mofokeng. 21/09/08. © Sowetan.

Sibongile Mashaba

Sibongile Mashaba

Fear is clearly etched on Thembi Sibisi's face. Her 14-year-old son, Siphamandla, was treated for food poisoning on Friday.

He was among 70 pupils from the Bottom Primary School in Slovoville on the West Rand who allegedly became ill after eating soft porridge served by the school's feeding scheme. There are 428 children at the school.

Sibisi said: "We were not told our children were sick. We saw ambulances and police vehicles going to the school and we rushed there to find out what was happening.

"When I arrived at the school my son told me he had a terrible headache. I rushed home to tell my sister and when I returned to the school my son had fainted."

She said she was thankful that her son soon feelt better.

Siphamandla, a grade 6 pupil, said: "I ate soft porridge at school at about 10am. I suddenly had a terrible headache and felt dizzy. Some teachers told us that other children were sick because of the water they had drunk."

Nhlanhla Khumalo, 13, a Grade 5 pupil, said: "I ate soft porridge and then I felt sick. I vomited and my stomach hurt. I just lost strength and could not do anything."

But the school dismissed allegations that the children had eaten soft porridge.

The school's principal John Sithi said: "They did not eat anything at the school. A doctor's report should be out on Saturday and will shed some light on the matter."

Johannesburg Emergency Services spokesman Percy Morokane said: "We cannot confirm whether or not the children became ill after they ate soft porridge at the school.

"The principal told us that the children had not eaten anything at school.

"The children all had the same symptoms - stomach ache, dizziness and headaches. These are symptoms of food poisoning."

He said the school informed them that the first child collapsed at about 8.30am but they were only called in two hours later.

"The situation could have been disastrous," Morokane said. "Any medical condition involving children is an emergency and should be treated as such.

"Schools are warned to call emergency personnel immediately when such things happen to prevent the situation from getting out of hand."