Home News Education dept apologises after ’traumatic’ event at matric winter camp

Education dept apologises after ’traumatic’ event at matric winter camp

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The Northern Cape Department of Education has apologised to parents and said it regrets an incident where matric pupils who attended the winter camp at Northern Cape High School experienced distress and started collapsing.

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THE NORTHERN Cape Department of Education has apologised to parents and said it regrets an incident where matric pupils who attended the winter camp at Northern Cape High School experienced distress and started collapsing.

This is after a number of parents complained of unfair treatment after they were locked out and prevented from assisting their children, who started to get hysterical on the evening of Sunday, July 3.

The winter camps ran from June 27 to 8 July 8 at different centres in the Province.

Some of the parents described the incident at Northern Cape High School as “traumatic”.

They said they had to call the police as one of the supervisors was “gatekeeping”, telling them that the situation was under control and that the children were just being naughty.

One city parent related that he was among the group of parents who begged for about four hours to be allowed entry, as he was concerned because his child has a health condition.

He added that there were parents who had travelled from smaller towns outside of Kimberley.

The parent said he rushed to the school after his child phoned him, telling him that she was scared because something strange was happening to the other pupils.

“Knowing that my child has an underlying health condition, we dropped everything and rushed to the school,” said the parent.

“Her mother continued to keep her on the call, trying to calm her down because she was scared and panicked.

“We could hear the other learners crying and screaming in the background, and thus we also panicked.

“While we were on the call with her, the phone went dead … We hung up the phone and re-dialled and someone answered her phone and told us that she had collapsed.

“We asked the person to keep the phone on her and keep us updated.

“By then we were at the school gate, where we found other parents locked out. We pleaded with a man, who said he was the circuit manager, for the children to be released but he was very arrogant and told us that no child will be released.

“He said the children were just naughty and that the situation was under control.”

Another parent said that a fellow parent called the police as they panicked and felt helpless.

She said none of the parents had any idea exactly how serious the situation was.

Northern Cape Department of Education spokesperson Sydney Stander explained that the identified centre was managed by two centre managers and supported by a team of eight supervisors, who were in charge of 178 pupils at the hostel.

“Three learners experienced distress and anxiety attacks in the early evening, where one learner fainted but was revived soon after. This incident was followed by load shedding, for which learners at that point were not prepared, and further panic broke out,” said Stander.

“Some learners called their parents indicating fear and distress, which in turn led to a group of parents converging on the school demanding the release of their children.”

Stander confirmed that some parents called the police, who arrived and assisted in calming down the situation.

He added that the HOD also arrived on the scene and, with all the education and security staff present at the centre, assisted parents to safely retrieve their children.

“The department regrets the incident and apologises to parents who had to wait at the gate before getting access to their children,” said Stander.

“By that time the area was plunged into darkness due to load shedding. We hope that they understand that under the circumstances we simply could not let everyone come onto the premises to fetch learners without putting in place proper releasing procedures.”

He said it was understandable that some pupils felt uncertain in an unfamiliar and stressful environment and furthermore were tired after a long day of concentrated academic work.

“By this time, understandably so, most learners had already called their parents to collect them.”

According to Stander, the situation had already normalised by the time the electricity was eventually restored.

“We thank those parents who, amidst difficult circumstances, exercised restraint and assisted with the orderly release of learners,” he added.

Stander said that 94 pupils were released back into the care of their parents, of which some returned the next day as walk-in participants of the winter school.

“One learner who has a pre-existing heart condition was taken to hospital by ambulance and was released after some hours under observation.

He said the department remains committed to supporting the matric class of 2022 and urged all pupils to take advantage of the opportunities created for them to complete the academic year successfully.

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