Law firm to investigate alleged drowning of two pupils

The Gauteng department of education will appoint an independent law firm to investigate the circumstances surrounding the alleged drowning of two pupils during a discipline camp in Centurion, north of Pretoria.

Matome Chiloane, the MEC for education in Gauteng, said the department will present the independent law firm to the school and families of the victims and give it timeframes for when to complete its investigation.

On Wednesday, Chiloane visited the Daveyton Skills School in Benoni, following the deaths of two pupils who allegedly drowned at Rock Falls Adventure Ranch on Monday afternoon.

Chiloane met with the school’s management and addressed members of the media afterwards. 

Based on the preliminary investigations, the trip or camp was not authorised by the department, said the MEC, noting that there were no educators or lifeguards during the trip.

Chiloane added that there was only one social worker taking care of 90 pupils during the trip.

A preliminary report shows that it is enough for the department to take immediate action against whoever is responsible for the deaths of the pupils.

Independent law firm

“We will institute an independent law firm to assist us to get to the bottom of the matter and assist us as to what happened,” said Chiloane.

“This was a school trip, and we do have a preliminary report internally, which is adequate to take action immediately.

“The trip was not sanctioned by anyone in the higher office, and no one in the district department knew that the kids had gone away.

“There were no educators on the trip, and there was just one social worker there alone with the children.”

Chiloane is expected to also visit the families of the two pupils on Wednesday afternoon.

Discipline camp

The department said  the pupils, aged 13 and 16, were attending a discipline camp conducted by Rising Stars Generation in Pretoria on Friday. The pupils were scheduled to return on Monday.

Steve Mabona, the spokesperson for the department, said: “It is alleged that, after activities had been concluded on Monday afternoon, one of the pupils suddenly ran towards a nearby river close to the campsite’s entrance.

“A second pupil followed in an attempt to bring him back. It is further alleged that the pupil who ran off jumped into the river, prompting the second pupil to try to rescue him.

“However, both pupils unfortunately drowned as a result.”

Mabona said the incident was reported to emergency medical services and the police, who managed to retrieve the bodies.

Gauteng police spokesperson, Captain Tintswalo Sibeko, said an inquest docket has been opened for investigation.

Investigation puts blame on school officials

In a separate incident two weeks ago, the report of an independent investigation into the drowning of 12-year-old Latoya Temilton recommended that the principal, deputy principal and teachers be charged for contravening various laws.

This was according to Meshack Nchupetsang, who is a representative of Nchupetsang Incorporated Attorneys.

The department hired the law firm to look into Temilton’s death, who was a grade 7 pupil at Laerskool Queenswood in Pretoria.

Temilton drowned on January 20 at Wag ’n Bietjie Campsite in Olifantsfontein in Ekurhuleni, east of Johannesburg. The venue was the site of a camp organised by the school to select head girls and head boys for the school.

Breach of Children’s Act

An investigation found that the principal, his deputy, and the teachers did not adhere to various regulations governing school excursions and the Children’s Act.

Not only did they lack knowledge and training on the regulations, but they also did not seek parental consent in line with the regulations on excursions.

The school officials have also been found to have not fulfilled their obligations in accordance with the Children’s Act. This is to ensure the wellbeing of the pupils under their care.

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