School lunch lands pupils in hospital

Ambulances, school buses ferry vomiting kids to two casualty wards

Hundreds of Schornville Primary School pupils in King William’s Town were rushed to two provincial hospitals yesterday after suffering stomach aches and vomiting. The incident took place shortly after the pupils ate their government-funded lunch at the school.

Dozens of ambulances and school buses had to ferry sick and crying pupils for the greater part of the day.

Taxi drivers who pick up pupils at the school were shocked to find no one at the school and started phoning parents.

Tired and hungry pupils were seen sitting forlornly at Grey Hospital with drips in their arms.

The Eastern Cape Department of Education said pupils had apparently fallen ill after eating crumbly porridge (umphokoqo) with expired sour milk.

Spokesman Loyiso Pulumani confirmed that the pupils had food poisoning.

The department has launched an investigation focusing on the water and food consumed at the school yesterday.

A parent, who did not want to give her name, said half of the school’s pupils were rushed to the Grey and Bhisho hospitals.

Schornville Primary has more than 1 200 registered pupils.

Last night after 7pm, Schornville school governing body chairman Mzwandile Vaaiboom said more pupils were still being admitted at the two hospitals.

Some of the children had started vomiting and complaining of stomach pains even before going to lunch, Vaaiboom said.

He said education officials had rushed to the school with health department experts and municipal water department employees.

“They took samples of the water and the sour milk, and also checked the food in the school pantry.”

Vaaiboom said not all the foodstuffs at the school had expired.

Parents, teachers and pupils were gathered in the busy casualty ward at King William’s Town’s Grey Hospital last night.

Noline Pikoko, grandmother of Grade 1 pupil Amani Pikoko, said she had become worried when she received a call from her daughter in Cape Town, informing her about the food poisoning in Schornville.

Amani said that after eating, he had started vomiting, but was feeling much better after seeing the doctor.

Uwakho Matsha, 8, said he was taken to the hospital on a school bus along with his classmates. Apart from being hungry and exhausted, he said, he was fine.

His mother, who declined to give her name, said she only knew of the incident after the man who collects her son from school phoned her.

Vaaiboom said the school would wait for test results to confirm where the food poisoning had originated.

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