MEC for Education: Gauteng, Mrs Barbara Creecy
Head of Department - Mr Boy Ngobeni
Members of the bereaved families
Senior Government Officials
Community leaders and members
Colleagues and friends
I am here to pay tribute to the parents, partners, colleagues and the families of all those who have lost their lives and those who have been injured during what was to have been a memorable educational experience for our young people. So many lives have been shattered during a journey that was planned as a wonderful, enriching education experience for our young people.
It is indeed a tragic day for the Education Department and the country as a whole. To be told that a deputy principal, two teachers, one support staff member and five learners from the same school have perished, as well as a principal in a critical condition and another teacher having his leg amputated sends deep sadness through us all. Not only has our country lost experienced and dedicated teachers and support staff, but we have also lost young people who would have contributed to our country’s future.
This tragedy has happened so soon when we have as a Department, not fully recovered from the tragic passing away of:
· Learners in a bus accident in Knysna
· Teachers in a mini bus accident on their way to an education conference in the North West
· Children in a bus accident on an excursion in Tshikombani, in Limpopo
Just entering this hall evokes sad memories. It was in this hall where we gathered when I was MEC for Education in Gauteng after a scholar transport bus carrying learners crashed. Many children got injured and some were permanently disabled.
We held a memorial service and a funeral for teachers from Igagasi Primary School following a car accident.
Phumula Gardens Primary school has unfortunately being one of those schools where tragedy has struck. In 2007 there was a stampede in the school. One learner was crushed to death.
All these memories are still fresh in our minds. We cannot overemphasise what a great loss we have all experienced with so many untimely deaths of our teachers and our little ones who we expected to hold the future of our country.
Phumula Gardens is one of the school of which we recognise as one of our shining examples. It is a school in a disadvantaged area that is serving the educational needs of its community with excellence. The community has shown confidence in the school over the years. As many schools in township are running empty, with the exodus of learners to schools in suburbs, Phumula Gardens has an enrolment of 1990 learners. This number clearly demonstrates that there are two schools in one school.
I hope this tragedy will not make us lose focus on our mandate to continue doing the good work that has become synonymous with this school. While we confront and come to terms with this tragedy, we are fully committed to ensuring that everyone including families, colleagues and fellow learners at Phumala Gardens Primary School is given the support to carry them through this difficult time.
As Minister I would like to pass our heart felt condolences to the families, colleagues, relatives and friends of those who lost their lives. I also wish a speedy recovery to the injured at home and those still in hospitals.
I thank you