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SAHRC has launched an investigation into deaths in a fire of three deaf children

MEDIA STATEMENT

08th September 2015

The South African Human Rights Commission has launched an investigation in to the living conditions of pupils at the Northwest School for the Deaf following the tragic death of three pupils there.

The Commission learnt with shock that the three pupils got killed in their sleep when the school hostel in Leeudoringstad, in Maquassi Hills Local Municipality, NW Province, was razed down by fire in the early hours of Monday two weeks ago.

In an investigation to be conducted, the Commission seeks to find out, among others, if the fire warning systems at the school were functional, and if any school official was on duty at the time of the fire. The Commission will also investigate whether there is any violation of human rights.

The Commission has also learnt that the SA Police Service is conducting its own criminal investigation into the cause of the deaths, and the Commission welcomes this investigation.

The Commission calls on the North West Department of Education and other government departments involved to ensure urgent placement of the learners from the Northwest School for the Deaf in alternative accommodation and school. The department is further requested to provide necessary support to the learners, teachers and parents.

As the Commission we have received similar concerns from learners and parents of learners at some of the  schools across the country, notably in Limpopo Province where at one school children went on a strike last year demanding among others, safe living conditions in their hostels. The Commission is also investigating allegations of staff shortages in Meerhof Special School, situated in Brits which falls under the Madibeng Local Municipality, NW Province. The Commission has the mandate to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities.
The Commission believes that there is more that needs to be done in guaranteeing that children with disabilities are provided, not only with quality education that is their basic right, but also safety while in schools.
The Commission would like to express its sincere condolences to the school, the learners and the families of the deceased, and hope that government will do more to ensure that tragedy of this kind is not repeated.
ENDS

Issued by the SA Human Rights Commission
Isaac Mangena
Spokesperson
071 884 8273

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