A weary-looking Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi on Monday said he was “emotionally drained” following the deaths of two more pupils.
This brings the total number of schoolchildren who have died in the province since the beginning of the school year to 15.
In the latest incident, two pupils died when a taxi transporting them to Madibatlou Middle School in Olifantsfontein on Monday was involved in an accident with a motorcycle. The motorcyclist also died and 17 pupils were injured, not 19 as earlier reported.
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said it had been a roller-coaster month for his department, as he paid respects to the Zwane family in Meyerton on Thursday.
Speaking at the school, Lesufi said the department has been through a “bad spell”.
“To add two additional names to the long list [of deaths] is just painful. But we’ll soldier on.”
Lesufi praised Ekhurhuleni emergency medical services for their efforts. “They were brilliant. They cleared the scene, cared for the children and counseled the affected families.”
Lesufi also thanked members of the public for assisting.
He also confirmed the deaths, saying he had spoken to the families of both pupils. “It is a difficult thing to do, daily, to confront those families and try to console them and say sorry.”
The MEC said – of the injured pupils – only one had required serious medical attention.
City of Ekurhuleni Community Safety MMC Phaladi Moko said: “We are all devastated. You prepare your child [for school], you do everything humanly possible, and the next thing you hear is bad news.”
Moko said the municipality was partnering with the Gauteng education department and would engage with service providers. He also said the Ekhurhuleni Metro Police Department would ensure “harsh and aggressive law enforcement”.
According to Moko, the motorcyclist struck the minibus taxi as it was making a turn toward the school, which is 300m from the site of the crash.
“We will have a full report by [Monday] afternoon.”
Lesufi said private transport arrangements for pupils needed a complete overhaul, adding that drivers who overloaded their vehicles should not be allowed to operate.