Family of learner who died after eating food at school demand answers

Mmachuene Cynthia Seema

Mmachuene Cynthia Seema

Published Mar 2, 2024


The family of a Grade 9 learner from Limpopo who died after allegedly eating ‘poisoned food’ at the school are demanding justice.

According to the Limpopo Department of Education, Mmachuene Cynthia Seema from the Raleledu Senior Secondary School at Mokopane, complained of stomach cramps and vomiting after eating chicken livers during lunch break on Friday February 23

As a result 52 learners were rushed to the local clinic for medical attention. They were transferred to the George Masebe Hospital, where 51 learners were treated and discharged.

However, Mmachuene, a 15-year-old learner who was one of those who took ill, did not survive.

According to family spokesperson, Matlakala Seema, Mmachuene was in a critical condition when she was admitted to hospital.

Seema said the family was devastated and wanted answers from the department.

"What hurts us the most is that the department is now distancing itself from this situation. We want them to tell us exactly what happened to our child."

She added that they wanted investigations “to identify what caused the death of our loved one so that we can have closure.” They also want the department to pay for the funeral.

Seema said that the circuit manager had paid them a visit to make a report but did not provide them with feedback, “He came here empty-handed.”

Seema told The Star that a similar incident had occurred two weeks earlier at the nearby Mashau Mabusha Primary School.

"What concerns us is that the department did nothing to address the first incident, which indicates that there was carelessness on the part of the food inspectors, who are in charge of determining whether the food is good for learners to consume."

The family has called for the school's feeding programme to be halted until the department gave an explanation for what had happened to their child.

Seema described Mmachuene as a “talkative person who liked to be around her classmates.”

"We really hoped for a lot from her and wished that she would grow up to achieve all that she wanted to accomplish. We're still reeling from what happened."

Meanwhile, Limpopo Department of Education spokesperson Matome Taueatsoala said that investigations had been launched to determine the cause of the incident.

“The department has stopped the feeding of chicken livers and has since taken the samples of the suspected chicken livers for testing,” he said.

Taueatsoala who said that donations were sought to assist the family, added that "the delivery of chicken livers was discontinued.

“Health inspectors from the Department of Health went to the school to investigate the suspected poisoning. The supplier also took samples so that tests and investigations could be done.”

The Limpopo MEC of education, Mavhungu Lerule-Ramakhanya, conveyed her sympathies to the deceased’s family, and promised that the cause of the tragedy would be probed.

“The alleged food poisoning is something not to be taken lightly when there is so much awareness in the country about unsafe food. When a young life is lost the future slowly becomes bleak. We need to protect our youth,” said Ramakhanya.

Meanwhile, the Seema family said they would appreciate any financial assistance from anyone willing to assist.

The school held a memorial service for Mmachuene who will be buried on Saturday.

The Star

Simon Majadibodu

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