Concerns have been raised following the confirmation that 11 children from a school in Mpumalanga were rushed to a medical facility after falling sick due to food poisoning.
The latest incident happened on Wednesday at Babati Primary School in Justacia, near Bushbuckridge.
It follows sporadic incidents where children have either died or recovered from the alleged food poisoning across the country.
“On Wednesday, learners became ill after they allegedly ate snacks and biscuits from some of the learners. Most of the learners were in grades 6 and 7. The learners presented with abdominal pains, vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness, and headaches,” said provincial health department spokesperson Dumisane Malamule.
Malamule said the children started showing symptoms around 8 a.m. before their first break. He said all the learners were transferred from a local clinic to Matikwana in an ambulance.
“They were all in stable condition and were discharged,” he said.
Provincial Department of Education spokesperson Jasper Zwane said the incident happened in the Cottondale School Circuit.
“We can confirm that the Department was informed that 11 learners of Babati Primary School in Cottondale Circuit in Bushbuckridge Local Municipality complained about stomach cramps. It is alleged that this was caused by some snacks they have eaten something which is still subject to investigation. All the learners were treated and released on Wednesday, except for one learner who was admitted,” said Zwane.
According to Zwane, the school has resumed full operation, although the level of learner attendance remains unsatisfactory.
He added that the School Governing Body members were present to oversee and evaluate the prevailing circumstances.
“Samples of the purported snacks and associated items were collected by officials from the health department for the purpose of conducting meticulous laboratory analyses and a subsequent comprehensive investigation, Zwane said.
“The education department is monitoring the developments very closely and will deploy officials to render psychosocial support to all the affected learners,” Zwane said.
A teacher from the school who is not authorised to speak to the media said they suspected products bought from foreign-owned tuck shops in the area.
“I can confirm that indeed, the learners experienced some different complications before they were taken to the hospital. Officials from the health department came and took the same samples of the alleged snacks and other food suspected to be contaminated,” she said.
Meanwhile, this week, the National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB) announced that more than 100 learners nationwide were taken to clinics after allegedly consuming contaminated snacks and biscuits from foreign-owned spaza shops.
The 100 cases exclude the Bushbuckridge incident.
“We call upon parents to educate their children not to buy anything from spaza shops. Schools and SGB representatives, please protect your children by educating them. These tuckshops will automatically close down. Unfortunately, as an association, we don’t have the authority to inspect the shops operating near schools,” said NASGB chairperson Matakanye Matakanye.
Matakanye urged the government to act through its structures, particularly local government and police.
He said the association’s statistics showed that 90 learners from Pulamadiboho Primary School in Soshanguve fell ill after they allegedly ate contaminated food bought from local tuck shops, while 22 pupils from Tlotlompho Primary School in Ga Rankuwa were reportedly affected by the same problem.
Another affected school is Tshepisong Primary School in Roodepoort, where seven children were hospitalized and one died.
Onkgopotse Tiro Primary School in Soweto had two deaths, while 10 pupils from Shelobane Primary School in Limpopo were taken to the hospital for the same reason.
A few days ago, anger broke out among South Africans after two children aged three and four from Vredefort in the Free State died after allegedly eating snacks they bought at the local spaza shop.
A few weeks ago, residents of Naledi took to the streets demanding the closure of foreign-owned tuck shops after two grade one learners from Kgauhelo Primary School and Karabo Primary School died after allegedly consuming biscuits bought from local spaza shops.
According to authorities, whether the children died due to the snacks and biscuits bought from the shops is still unclear.
Investigations are ongoing to reveal the actual cause of the deaths of the children.
The government responded by conducting a national inspection to check the legitimacy and quality of the products sold at foreign-owned shops.
Indignant community members and members of Operation Dudula have inspected tuck shops in some areas of Gauteng and the Free State since the deaths of the mysterious children made headlines.
During a raid at some shops, expired food and other related items were found.
The spokesperson for Operation Dudula, Zandile Dabula, has lambasted the government for failing to inspect foreign-owned shops.
“We blame them because if authorities were inspecting the shops in the township, incidents like these could have been prevented. We also want these people out of the country because they are draining our economy,” said Dabula.
Regarding the matter, ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula said the governing party met with the shop owners to discuss the current crisis.
“We met with the spaza shop owners to talk about the problem. We are planning to embark on a serious campaign to do away with illegal immigrants in the township and owing shops,” Mbalula told the media.