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Learners complain of diarrhoea after eating 'stale' food at PE conference

By Afikile Lugunya - Jun 29, 2018
Learners complain of diarrhoea after eating 'stale' food at PE conference

There was panic at the Nelson Mandela University on Friday morning after learners, who attended a provincial conference organised by the Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDoE), complained of stomach pains and diarrhoea after apparently eating stale food provided at the conference.

The three-day conference, which began on Wednesday, is part of the Eastern Cape Department of Education's effort to address learner dropout and to develop strategies to combat, educate, create an awareness about social ills affecting learners performance across the province. 

According to the department, leading this conference is the Education Social Support Services chief directorate, which is tasked to educate learners about these social ills that are an impediment to learner performance. 

The Youth Conference themed 'Ndi Grand' and will purposefully revive and strengthen Peer Education Programme in all schools.

"Key to this conference is creating ambassadors who will help inculcate positive values and behavioral change to address risky behavior even to their peers," it said. 

"Critical issues like comprehensive sexual education, ensuring its integration into the curriculum including monitoring implementation thereof will also be dealt with."

However, on Friday, a number of learners claimed that they were suffering from diarrhoea after apparently eating "rotten rice".

Speaking to RNEWS, the learners alleged that the rice they ate on Thursday evening at the end of the second day of the conference tasted funny as if it was cooked a day before - on Wednesday, but they had no choice, but to eat it because they were hungry. 

They said they know of a good number of their peers, who had running stomachs after eating the rice.

"The rice was rotten and I could taste it, but I didn't want to be funny to others because they were eating it too," said one learner, who is known to RNEWS.

"They gave us rice, fish, spinach and chicken last night. There was nothing wrong with the rest of the food except for the rice, which tasted funny, but I continued to eat because I was hungry."

Another student known to RNEWS said that he had been in and out of the toilet all morning. 

"I'm much better than a student from the Alfred Nzo, who couldn't even walk due to the pain she was feeling in the morning. But at least there was an ambulance, which quickly helped her," he added.

Eastern Cape Department of Education Spokesperson, Malibongwe Mtima, said that the department is not responsible for catering, but the university was.

"We acted immediately after learning that many people had runny stomachs by contacting the Eastern Cape emergency services while the university said that they would investigate," he said.

"The rice was not rotten, but too many spices and unusual ingredients were used and people, who ate it, their stomachs were not familiar with them - I think that's what made them sick."

RNEWS was still to get comment from the university at the time of publishing.