The wind has been blowing hard and strong for two consecutive days in Sub T/A Ngwerero’s territory in Zomba Mayaka. For young learners at Natchengwa Primary School in the area, the chilly weather could have been a nice excuse to stay away from school.
But driven by their thirst for knowledge, and the desire to achieve their dreams, most turned up for classes early in the morning on Wednesday, the 6th of June. But for four of the 104 learners in Standard 3B at Natchengwa, this was the last day of their lives.
When the class agreed to take up their lessons outside, in a bid to get some warmth from the sun, the wall of the temporary shelter nearby collapsed under the force of the battering wind, pinning down the young souls in a tragedy that claimed four lives and left 15 with various degrees of injuries. The tragic event left the school and the community in deep shock and in a complete state of mourning.
According to head teacher, Blazio Liviere, the incident has cast a dark shadow over the school, and many learners are still traumatized.
“We are in a state of shock,” said Liviere, who heads a school of about 900 learners.
Shock, disbelief and grief was evidently printed on the faces of fellow school pupils, members of the affected families, the clergy and the community that turned up at Natchengwa to pay their last respects to the deceased.
And speaking at a joint funeral service at the school on Thursday, Traditional Authority Ngwerero, who was part of the rescue operation that ferried the injured to Zomba General Hospital, blamed the accident on the weak structure that the communities built with financial assistance from the School Improvement Grants (SIG).
Ngwerero appealed to the government to ensure that the grants are managed in consultation with development committees at area and village level, which he said is not the case right now.
He said because of lack of proper supervision, local contractors were cutting corners, putting lives of learners at risk.
Speaking on behalf of the affected families, Lucious Namanya said the community is deeply saddened with the demise of the young learners, and prayed that the government will move in to help address the infrastructure challenges to avoid a repeat of the same.
“This structure was constructed by the community as a temporary measure because we were experiencing increases in enrolment,” Namanya said.
Delivering a message of condolences from His Excellency, the State President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, the Minister of Education, Science and Technology Bright Msaka said the loss of the four precious lives was deeply regrettable, considering that the victims died while in pursuit of education and in an environment that was supposed to be safe.
“I would like to assure you that government will fully investigate this incident to ascertain what really happened here,” said Msaka, who earlier in the morning visited the injured learners at Zomba General Hospital.
And in a show of support, the president condoled the families with K700,000, while the Ministry provided the four coffins for the burial of the deceased.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :