Feeding scheme grounded after two pupils die of food poisoning

The Mpumalanga department of education, has suspended the feeding scheme at Nelson Ngobeni Primary School at Emalahleni after two pupils died from suspected food poisoning.

At least 11 others have been hospitalised, with one of them in an intensive care unit at a local hospital.

A group of children started complaining of stomach pains while others vomited after eating food prepared at the school on Monday.

Family members said they were told that on the day, pupils were fed soya mince.

Kgaogelo Aphane whose 10-year-old sister, Busi Mkhatshwa died, said: "She told us that they ate soya mince at school before she died.

"It's very scary that a child can die from food she ate at school, where we think they are safe," Aphane said.

He said Busi loved school and dancing.

"She was a happy child; she would talk about her dreams and she liked dancing too."

Department of education officials led by MEC Bonakele Majuba visited the hospital yesterday morning and clarified that, two pupils and not three as earlier reported, died.

"The department is encouraged by the reports from the hospital that all the learners are stable and are likely to be discharged today.

"The one [pupil] who is being monitored in ICU and is expected to be discharged within the next 24 hours," said the MEC.

"An investigation has been instituted... we have also suspended the provision of school nutrition programme until a report is received from the investigating team."

Though food poisoning is often associated with food gone through contamination, shocked parents in Emalahleni suspected foul play.

"This is very scary, we think of taking our children out of the school feeding scheme.

"There might be someone who put poison in the food or it was rotten," said community member Themba Magagula.

The DA said they would lay criminal charges against Majuba.

"We also call for an emergency external audit of the food supplied through the feeding scheme to ensure it is safe and that this tragedy does not occur again," said DA leader in Mpumalanga, Jane Sithole.

In another case of suspected food poisoning in the province in May, 26 pupils at Ndimande Primary in Bushbuckridge were hospitalised after eating food prepared at the school.

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