Basic education hauled to court over Geluksdal learner’s death

Basic education hauled to court over Geluksdal learner’s death

The High Court in Johannesburg has admitted rights group, Section27, as an _amicus curiae_ (friend of the court) in the case of a Geluksdal learner who died due to unsafe electrical wiring at her school.

The rights group says it applied to be part of the case following several complaints and queries related to death and injury in the school environment.

The organisation was behind the push for justice in the Michael Komape case, a five-year-old who drowned in excrement after falling into the pit toilet at his school in Limpopo’s Chebeng Village.

“To ensure that each and every learner is safe, it is essential to ensure that school infrastructure meets the minimum benchmarks for school safety, and that public officials in every level of the basic education system are held accountable for their obligations to keep children safe.”

The learner, whose name has been withheld from the media for now, lost her life in 2017. Geluksdal Secondary School was, at the time, allegedly plagued by vandalism and theft due to a lack of adequate security on the school premises.

“As a result, circuit breakers and earth leakage equipment were repeatedly stolen from the school. This, along with poor maintenance and loose wiring, made school buildings unsafe. Despite being informed of the electrical problems at the school by the school principal, the circuit, district and provincial education authorities did nothing. During a heavy thunderstorm a matric learner at the school was running barefoot and because of the wiring problems, was electrocuted when they touched the metal doorframe of a mobile classroom. They died on the scene,” says Section27 in a statement.

The case was first filed before court in January this year.

Section27 says the government’s failure to adhere to the provisions of the Minimum Uniform Norms and Standards for Public School Infrastructure to ensure safe school infrastructure is unlawful and unacceptable.

The National Department of Basic Education, Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi and Geluksdal Secondary School Principal and the school’s governing body are among the respondents in the matter.

The family’s claims include a claim for constitutional damages as well as claims based in the common law of delict, which is in line with section 39(2) of the Constitution.

Local Voices tried getting the education department’s comment on the matter, but spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga’s phone rang unanswered at the time of publishing.