The mother of a Bokmakierie Primary School Grade 1 pupil is furious after her child severed her fingertip in the girls’ toilet at school last week.
Louise Dirks said to make matters worse, the school did not have updated contact details for her and did not save the fingertip so it could be reattached by doctors.
She says she has been asking the school to have the children accompanied to the toilet.
Ms Dirks said that on Wednesday March 8, her daughter, Zeah’s, money had fallen out of her pocket while she was in the toilet and as Zeah bent down to pick it up, the door was slammed against her finger, severing the tip as she pulled her hand back.
The principal had then sent Ms Dirks’ nephew, who also attends the school, to her house to say that someone needed to come to the school and take the child to the doctor.
Ms Dirks was at work and her aunt who was at home then went to the school where she and Zeah were taken to Dr Abdurahman Community Health Centre by the principal.
At work, Ms Dirks cousin told her she needed to get to the hospital because her daughter had been injured at school.
She went straight to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital where she waited for the ambulance to bring Zeah.
“When I saw my child’s finger, I freaked out, and then the doctor told me they couldn’t save her finger. I asked why, and he said they didn’t have the other part of the finger, so they couldn’t do the operation,” said Ms Dirks.
The following day, Ms Dirks went to the school for answers, and, according to her, the principal said that he didn’t have any because he hadn’t investigated the matter yet as he had been in meetings all day.
“I told him that means that he wasn’t interested in what had happened because he didn’t investigate it yet, and he said he had done his job to drop my child at the day hospital,” she said.
Ms Dirks said she had been complaining about the children going alone to the toilets, which are far from the classrooms and close to the canal which runs along the N2 highway.
“I have been telling them that they need to accompany the children to the toilet because they are still young. Anyone can jump over the wall and attack our children,” she said.
Ms Dirks said a teacher had told her it wasn’t necessary to accompany the children because they went to the toilet in pairs or in groups.
Ms Dirks said that what upset her even more was that the school had not contacted her directly, and when she asked the secretary about that, she was told the school did not have her number.
“I told them how could they not have my number if my child was at the school, for two years already. The number they have for me is when my 20-year-old child was at the school which is a house number. I don’t understand how they cannot have my number. Are they not supposed to update their contact book every year?
“There is lots of negligence at the school. I am very upset about this. If the principal had to do what he was supposed to do and go look for the other part of my child’s finger then they could’ve fixed it, but he didn’t. What am I going to tell my child when she is older and asks me about her finger? It’s something that can’t be replaced,” she said.
Bokmakierie Primary School declined to comment.
Millicent Merton, spokeswoman of the Western Cape Education Department, said the principal had reported the incident to the department and an investigation revealed it was an accident and not a case of bullying.
“Therapeutic support will be provided to the learners, as required,” she said.
Aziza Kannemeyer, chairwoman of the Athlone Community police forum said it was sad and regrettable that a pupil had experienced an injury of this nature.
“It is traumatic, to say the least, as the disfigurement is permanent and it has the potential to create long-term psychological consequences. One has to examine the causes of such an incident and what has given rise to it. But, at a primary school level, one expects that certain checks and balances would be put in place to ensure that learners are kept safe and are well taken care of,” she said.
Ms Kannemeyer said it was important to have a class assistant or helper to accompany six-year-olds to the toilet.