Johannesburg – Scenes of horror and anguish played out at a school in the village of Sokhulumi on Friday as parents learned of the death of 18 school children in a horror taxi accident near the border of Gauteng and Mpumalanga.
Some family members stood outside the school hall at Sizakele Primary School sobbing uncontrollably. A mother lay on the floor, crying for help. She was later supported by family and friends who tried to comfort her.
While Sizakele was not one of the schools whose pupils had been involved in the crash, the premises was used as a base where Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi briefed parents.
Less than ten minutes away in Verena, authorities were still tending to the debris of the burnt out taxi that lay scattered in parts along the side of the road.
Paramedics said earlier that several children had been burnt beyond recognition after the taxi caught fire.
As the sun set over the scene of the horrific crash, the remains of burnt school books lay scattered outside the taxi.
Education spokesperson Steve Mabona said 18 pupils were killed in the crash as well as the driver and a general worker, bringing the death toll to 20. Seven children survived the accident and have been taken to various hospitals. Three are in a critical condition, he said.
The pupils attended Refano Primary School and Mahlenga High School.
Lesufi said the taxi crash was a dark day for the Gauteng Education Department.
Lesufi said they would meet with family members on Sunday and establish the funeral committee.
“We have already unleashed all the support needed for taking families to hospitals as well as ensuring that they get counselling.”