A container with 25 litres of sanitiser burst into flames killing a 12-year-old grade 4 Libode schoolboy, Likho Msheshwe, and injuring six others, two of them critically.
Provincial health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said: “It is alleged they saw a snake and a teacher instructed them to burn it out with sanitiser. Another large sanitiser container then burst into flames.”
The injured children are aged nine to 12.
Nzuluka Senior Primary School principal Ntombelanga Mdudu told the Dispatch: “Pupils were screaming. It was chaos. The children were on fire. We tried to use buckets of water to put the fire out”
The injured pupils were treated for burns at St Barnabas Hospital in Ntlaza.
The incident took place at Nzuluka SPS in Lwandlana village on Tuesday.
Mdudu said the incident happened while they were trying to burn a snake out of a drain.
Kupelo said the victims had been rushed to hospital by staff.
“On arrival one pupil died. The others were transferred to the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha.” The two critically injured pupils are in ICU.
Kupelo said the dead pupil and the two critically injured pupils had sustained more than 50% burn wounds.
EC education MEC Fundile Gade’s spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said the MEC had offered condolences to the families.
Gade’s department would would ensure that parents, teachers and pupils at the school received trauma counselling.
Mtima said the group of seven and a teacher had been trying to kill a snake which had been spotted slithering in the grass in the schoolyard.
It slid into a drain and in trying to kill it, the teacher sprayed a little sanitiser inside the hole and lit it.
However the fire quickly slipped underneath the drain and into a storeroom where a sanitiser container exploded.
Nzuluka SGB chair Zameka Makhunga told the Dispatch a different version. She said after the snake had slid into the drain, the teacher threw burning grass inside the opening.
When the snake did not emerge, the teacher and the pupils left the scene. The teacher was later called by a pupil and told the snake was trying to leave the drain.
“The teacher went back and tried to use sanitiser but was not able to set it alight. However it is not clear whether the grass thrown inside was still burning as the next thing there was a loud bang and the pupils caught fire,” Makhunga said.
She said the teacher escaped unscathed.
School principal Ntombelanga Mdudu said they had reported the matter to the district education authorities. She described the snake as very big.
Mdudu said she and the other two teachers had tried to assist in catching the snake but had given up and left to eat lunch. The pupils who had told them about the snake had also left to eat lunch even though some had kept an eye on the drain where the snake was hiding.
She said a 25-litre sanitiser container which was being used by one of the teachers had exploded with the seven pupils catching fire in the process.
– Daily dispatch