This blog was co-authored with: Maano Manavhela, Candidate Attorney

In this case, the Plaintiff’s two children aged 5 and 6 years old, sustained severe injuries at Shoshanguve Primary school when a newly constructed gate fell on them whilst they were on their way to the school’s portable toilets unsupervised. These severe injuries included broken bones that have resulted in both learners’ inability to walk. The plaintiffs claimed damages against the MEC for Education Gauteng.

The standard of welding on the gate depicted poor welding practices and clearly no sign-off by a qualified and experienced person and the gate had no stopping mechanism. The wall as not constructed according to applicable building standards. The work was not complete, and children should not have been allowed near what was a construction site which was a risk to safety.

The court found that the school governing body and principal who had a legal duty to prevent harm to their learners were negligent because of failure to obtain a proper design for the gate, failure to perform proper quality control for the gate and wall, failure to obtain local authority approval and ensure that the wall and gate complied with national building regulations before signing off. The educator was negligent when she failed to supervise or arrange for supervision of the minor children. Budgeting constraints were no defence to the non-compliance with construction laws.

The court was satisfied that a reasonable person in the position of the principal and/or educators would have foreseen the reasonable possibility of their actions resulting in harm to a learner in their care if no steps were taken to prevent such harm. And held the MEC liable for all proven damages.