Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

‘Schools can’t hide behind a disclaimer when pupils drown’ – Gauteng Education MEC

The MEC urged schools to take precautions ahead of any trips involving water activities to prevent such incidents.

Gauteng Education MEC Matome Chiloane has stressed that schools cannot absolve themselves of responsibility with disclaimers when pupils drown during excursions.

Chiloane visited the Daveyton Skills School in Benoni, Ekurhuleni, on Wednesday following the drowning of two teenagers in the Hennops River near Centurion.

The pupils, aged 14 and 17, allegedly drowned during a discipline camp at Rock Falls Adventure Ranch on Monday.

It has been reported that after the conclusion of activities, one of the pupils abruptly headed towards a river near the campsite entrance.

Another pupil followed suit in an attempt to rescue him, however, both of them drowned in the process.

Independent investigation

Addressing the media at the school, Chiloane voiced his disappointment at the negligence of Gauteng schools in adequately safeguarding pupils during excursions.

“This is not the first time that we find ourselves in this situation,” he told reporters.

The MEC confirmed that an independent investigation will be launched into the deaths of the pupils.

A law firm will be appointed to handle the investigation.

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“This law firm will assist us. We will come back and give a report. The outcomes of these law firms have been consistent.

“I’m sure you have seen that we have implemented their recommendations ever since we have been appointing them and together with this [latest drowning] we will do the same,” Chiloane said.

The MEC expressed regret over the incident, noting that there would be consequences.

“It is not an ideal situation we find ourselves in where we have to suspend our educators or suspend those who are responsible or taken action against them.”

School disclaimer not enough

He urged schools to take precautions ahead of any trips involving water activities to prevent such occurrences in the future.

“Don’t assume that where you are going the situation [will go smoothly]. It has been demonstrated over time that these trips come back with repercussions. [Often], we have to come and explain to the family what happened to their child because they entrusted us with their child.

“We can’t work based on a disclaimer that we have made the parents sign that should anything happen to the child, the school is not responsible.

“We can’t do that anymore, it’s not right. It means you are cautious of the potential dangers that are there, but we want to protect the school’s interests and that’s not being fair.”

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Chiloane also stated his belief that the investigation wouldn’t be prolonged, as some details surrounding the drowning incident have already been uncovered.

“Unlike other [incidents], we know what happened.”

He further described the incident as “difficult and painful”, further indicating that he would visit the families of the two pupils.

“When we go to families, the first thing that they want to know is that do you have answers for them and it’s quite difficult because we don’t have that immediate answer to say what really happened.”

Latoya Temilton drowning

In a similar incident, a Grade 7 pupil from Queenswood Primary School, Latoya Temilton, drowned while on a leadership camp in Witkoppen on 20 January.

The law firm, which investigated Temilton’s death, found that the teachers present on the day of the excursion were “extremely” negligent.

Nchupetsang Attorneys recommended charging the principal and teachers with misconduct for providing “dishonest and fabricated information” to the Gauteng Department of Education in their testimonies, which contradicted the pupils’ version of the downing incident.

Investigations revealed that the pool at the campsite was unsuitable for children and there were no teachers or lifeguards on duty, despite indications that Latoya could not swim.

The firm suggested that the provincial department compensate the Temilton family “based on moral obligation”, with the exact amount to be determined.

NOW READ: GDE and Queenswood teachers to face negligence charges over Latoya Temilton’s death