The family of Kganya Mokhele, a two-year-old child who died after a shelf collapsed on him at a crèche in South Africa, has accused the preschool of attempting to “cover up” his death.
The incident occurred around 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Match 7, 2023, at the Little Ashford Preschool in Senderwood, close to Bedfordview, Johannesburg.
The child was in the classroom with his pals, the principal, and two teachers when he “touched the shelf with toys and it fell on top of him,” according to Lieutenant Colonel Mavela Masondo.
Masondo stated that the boy was rushed by ambulance to a nearby medical care facility, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Sipho Radebe, the small boy’s grandfather, told the media during Gauteng MEC Matome Chiloane’s visit to the Little Ashford preschool on Wednesday afternoon, March 8, 2023, that they were first informed about the event an hour after it occurred.
Blood spatters were still visible near the grey shelf in the classroom on Wednesday. The lesson room is on the first floor.
A blood splatter trail led to an empty second classroom with a large pool of blood left behind. The floor was littered with white Kleenex. There were also blood splatters on the stairwell leading to the classrooms.
According to Radebe, video footage of the incident indicated that it happened just after 09:00 on Tuesday, but the boy’s father, Ntaote, was only called to the scene after 10:00.
The family lives five minutes from the school, and Ntaote was at home at the time.
“When we were called to the hospital, there was not a single person from the school present. We really would have loved to know what happened. The treatment that we got from this school was horrific. It was lies, lies, and lies,” he said.
Radebe said the police only arrived an hour after the incident.
“When the police came, we asked them why they took so long, and they said they called them 10 minutes ago. It leaves a very bad taste in our mouths. I am sure that this school didn’t mean for that to happen, but what they did afterward…tried to cover up, that is what makes us really angry,” he said.
Radebe said the school denied them access to view the CCTV footage of the incident.
“It became very ugly because we demanded to see the footage and wanted to find out what happened. We only saw the footage at 18:00. We saw the footage… horrible. This could have been prevented.”
Radebe said the footage showed that the four teachers in the classroom were busy on their cellphones while the kids were running around.
“You could see the kids playing around, and that’s what three-year-olds do; they are inquisitive. That made us very sad. This cabinet that fell onto our child is taller than me; it’s about 1.8m in length and 1.5m in width. It fell on top of this three-year-old, and he passed away there and then. The paramedics took a lifeless body
“Even at the hospital, the nurses have told us that this child did not die here [at the hospital]. We don’t want to prejudge this, but our preliminary investigation, as a family, tells us that this accident could have been prevented,” he said.
“The senior principal at the school, Natasha Luke, described the incident as “very tragic and unfortunate circumstances”.
“Luke said the little boy, Kganya, tried to reach for a toy on the shelf when it collapsed on him.
“What transpired was a little boy playing in a classroom, and he tried to reach for a toy I presume that he wanted off the shelf. He then proceeded to grab onto the shelf and, unfortunately, the shelf gave into the weight and fell on top of him.”
Luke said the staff at the school “immediately took action and removed the shelf off the boy and performed CPR. They then called the paramedics.
“The paramedics then tried to resuscitate the child and he was taken to hospital.”
Luke could not indicate how long it took for the paramedics to arrive.
Netcare Linksfield Hospital, where the boy was taken to, was about 3km from the school.
Cedric Ntumba, the CEO of the Little Ashford Group, said they were “terribly saddened” by what had happened.
Ntumba said they would try to find out what happened and whether the right procedures were followed.
“Fourteen years ago, we started Little Ashford and, today, we have graduated thousands of children through our doors. We take safety, we take care, very importantly,” he said.
“We are in process of understanding what has happened and the reaction of the team once the incident happened, once all of that has been put and laid out in a very clear timeline, we will be in a better position to interrogate the different reactions, including the paramedics,”
He said they would be compliant and would participate in any investigation that took place.
“We would be accountable for the incident that has happened here. We would make sure that this never happens again. My plea to the family is to know that we will be cooperating, but whatever they need and whatever it is that we can do to make this process a little bit more bearable, please do reach out. There is no hiding and no pretences,” he added.
Chiloane said they would institute their own investigation into the incident.
“We will be appointing a set of investigators to come in and look for a number of things. Among those is compliance… if you have a class of toddlers, you know that the shelves should be mounted. We will look into the scope of it – but, for now, we would want to allow the family to find closure,” he said.