As a rainy cold front rocked the Eastern Cape this past weekend, a five-year-old Grade R pupil at JA Ncaca Primary School in the township of Lingelihle in Cradock slept in a freezing, locked classroom.
On Friday afternoon his mother searched frantically when her son did not come back from school. Desperate, the mother went to JA Ncaca primary in search of her little boy.
The mother and the teachers searched outside the school building but the Grade R pupil was nowhere to be found.
On Monday morning, when a teaching assistant and the young pupil’s classmates opened the Grade R classroom, the sight of a weak and dehydrated little boy lying in a foetal position shocked them to the core.
Following the grim discovery, the little boy’s mother was called to the school, along with emergency services. Upon his arrival at the Cradock Hospital, the little boy’s condition was so critical that he had to be transported to Dora Nginza Hospital in Gqeberha in a helicopter.
JA Ncaca primary school in Lingelihle township had been facing a classroom shortage crisis when a kind sponsor offered to house two grades in a building in the heart of Cradock.
Grade R and Grade 2 learners attend classes in town while the other grades attend school in the main school building in the township.
The five-year-old pupil had been locked in the sponsored building in town the entire weekend.
A concerned parent who asked not to be named said they gathered as parents to demand answers from the school on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We met with the teachers and the district office but we were not satisfied with their response. They told us that they’re doing an internal investigation and that they cannot reveal their findings at this point.
“The principal must take full responsibility and the law must take its course. Somebody needs to account for this. They don’t even have Grade R teachers. Learners are left under the care of a teaching assistant who is not even qualified to teach,” said a scathing parent.
The Eastern Cape Department of Education spokesperson, Malibongwe Mtima, also confirmed the incident.
“Yes, the unfortunate incident occurred this past weekend. However, we’re still conducting an internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident. We cannot say much at this point.” Mtima said.
Children’s rights activist Petros Majola of Khula Development has urged the Eastern Cape Education Department to set aside a budget for school caretakers.
“This incident would not have happened if the school had a caretaker. They would have been able to notice that a child was locked in class,” Majola said.
Concerned parents told Scrolla.Africa that a criminal case has been opened with the police. However, at the time of publication the police had not yet confirmed if a case had indeed been opened.