The mother reported the child missing at the police station after searching frantically for him when he did not return home.
WHILE all 75 schools in Kimberley remained closed yesterday, a seven-year-old Pescodia Primary School pupil was rescued after being unknowingly locked in his classroom overnight following the chaos and panic that erupted when pupils were sent home early on Monday.
The young Grade 2 pupil, Breyton Haai from Jacksonville, slept on the chairs in the classroom after he was accidentally locked inside the class. The incident happened after all 75 schools in the Sol Plaatje municipal area were dismissed early due to the protest action on Monday.
Breyton’s mother, Charlise Haai, said yesterday that they had reported the child missing at the police station after searching frantically for him when he did not return home.
“My mother and I went to town in the morning and Breyton went to school. The pupils were allowed to leave early as classes were dismissed. We got home before 2pm and found that my son was not at home. I became worried as all the other children were already home. I asked my brother whether Breyton had returned home and he said my son never came home from school. I walked to the school in the hope that I would find him. When I got to the school, the premises were already locked and everyone was gone,” said Charlise.
“I asked the other children whether they had seen my son. They all had different versions about seeing him in different places. One of his classmates told me that the teacher had kept Breyton behind as he had some writing to finish. I found it odd as the school was already out and the teacher was not at the school.”
She said that her parents later went to nearby communities in search of the child.
“My mother and father asked community members in the area whether they had seen Breyton. We then went to the police as it was getting late and there was no sign of him anywhere. The police said we must return with a photograph so that they can report him as missing. My father even went to Lerato Park and Bobo se Plaas in search of him but with no luck.”
Charlise said they could not sleep the entire night as they were worried sick about the missing child.
“We could not sleep the entire night and prayed that Breyton would be safe, wherever he was. My parents left early the next morning to go back to the school again before anyone got there and to ask the security to open the gates for them. When they got closer to the school, they could see that the lights in two classrooms were on. After calling my son’s name several times, they spotted him standing at the window.
“He must have been sleeping inside the class and woke up when he heard them calling. He was standing by the window crying and my mother assured him that they would get him out of the class.”
Breyton’s grandfather, Charles, said he was so relieved when he saw his grandson standing at the window.
“He was crying but it was tears of relief. We went to the people staying opposite the school and the owner of the house pressed his panic button to alert the security company. The school uses the same security company and they were able to open the classroom for us,” Charles said.
He added that he was happy that the child was not harmed. “He had made himself a bed to sleep on with the chairs. He used some of the chair covers and placed them on the chairs and used others to cover himself. The classroom was also warm so he did not get cold. Plus he kept the lights of the classroom on the entire night. He was very clever and knew what to do.
“Besides being a bit shaken and hungry, as he had not eaten the entire day, he was fine and in one piece. We were very happy that he was unharmed.”
Charlise said that they do not blame anyone for the incident.
“Everyone, including the teachers at the school, were in a panic over the protests. They were forced to suddenly send the pupils home. It could have happened to anyone. We are just relieved and happy that nothing horrible happened to our child,” she said.
Department of Education spokesperson, Geoffrey van der Merwe, confirmed the incident.
“We regret to inform the public that a pupil from Pescodia Primary School was on Monday accidentally locked in a classroom when schools were dismissed early and protesters entered the school premises and created panic amongst pupils and teachers,” Van der Merwe said.
“The child and his mother were taken to the hospital for treatment by the principal. We are awaiting the official report from the principal.”
Reports were also received that some children were left at police stations after the schools could not contact their parents.
Van der Merwe added that the department had no knowledge of this but they were following up on the matter.
“Schools make use of SMS systems to inform parents in the event that schools are dismissed early,” he said.
Van der Merwe said that the department hoped that schooling would return to normal soon
“It should be noted that the Department of Education has not closed any school and it is our hope that an amicable solution is reached soon so that schooling can return back to normal.”
He added that the district office had developed a recovery plan and this would be implemented once the situation had completely normalised.