An 18-year-old Grade 12 learner “tragically” died after being bitten by a venomous snake while preparing for examinations at Mawewe Secondary School in a village in the Bushbuckridge Local Municipality.
The Mpumalanga provincial Department of Education said it is “deeply saddened” by the learner’s death, following the incident that happened on Monday night.
The school is situated in the Matsavana Circuit in Dumphries village.
“The incident occurred at the school during a Grade 12 camp organised as part of improving the preparation of learners for the 2023 National Senior Certificate Examination,” spokesperson for the Mpumalanga Department of Education, Jasper Zwane, narrated.
The species of snake, and the circumstances that led to the schoolgirl being bitten are not known at this stage.
“The MEC for Education, Bonakele Majuba, received the news with shock and extends his heartfelt condolences to the learner's family, school, and teachers during this difficult time.”
Majuba is set to visit the school and the bereaved family on Thursday afternoon.
The department said learners at the school are receiving counselling.
“May the soul of the departed (learner) rest in peace,” the provincial authorities said.
With hot weather and rain experienced in several parts of the country, experts have warned that chances of bumping into a snake have increased, but people should not panic.
IOL last month spoke to two of Durban’s most popular snake catchers, Nick Evans and Jason Arnold.
Here are five things you should do immediately if you find yourself in the presence of a snake, according to Arnold.
1) Get pets away and to safety. Pets are known for attacking snakes and getting bitten in the process.
2) Keep an eye on the snake to see where it goes and to help the rescuer locate it when he or she arrives.
3) Try to get a decent picture or video of the snake so it can still be identified by a professional if it happens to move off and disappear.
4) Don't interfere with snakes. Even if your intentions are good, snakes see humans as a threat and will bite if you get too close.
5) If you end up being in close proximity to a snake, there's no need to panic. Just back off slowly in a non-threatening manner. The snake will probably do exactly the same.
“If bitten by a snake, a photo or video can assist in vastly speeding up treatment protocols,” said Arnold.
“Or at least try to take note of what it looked like. Professional snake handlers should be able to make an ID based on a good description.
“The most important thing to do is get the patient to the nearest competent medical facility in the quickest amount of time. Some snake venoms take action very quickly, so time is important. Don't waste it.”
Evans urged people not to try home remedies if bitten by a snake, like using a tourniquet, cutting around the bite site, electric shock, etc.
“Just rush to the nearest facility. I also recommend downloading the free African Snakebite Institute app. For identifications, snakebite info and more.”