MEC Lesufi Update on Parktown Boys High School and Laerskool Bekker Matters
Thank you for attending this media briefing. We have convened you so that we can share with you information and developments on the sad matters that have affected education in the province, and captivated the attention of our province and the country.
The start of the 2020 school year in the Gauteng province has been marred by a series of traumatic tragedies and incidents that have sought to destabilize the system. These matters had required our attention and immediate action in order for us to address them without delay.
We are equally determined to ensure that going forward, the impact of these unfortunate incidents are minimized and hopefully eradicated.
Today marks a week since we found the body of Enoch Mpianzi.
This morning, on behalf of the Gauteng government and people of Gauteng, we were led by Premier David Makhura in visiting both the Seboko and Mpianzi families to extend our sincerest condolences.
PARKTOWN BOYS' HIGH SCHOOL TRAGEDY
On 15 January 2020, a group of Grade 8 boys from Parktown Boys High School arrived at the Nyati Bush and River Break in the North West province for an Orientation Camp. Parktown Boys High has previously indicated that the purpose of the Orientation Camp is "aimed at introducing new Parktonians to each other and creating an environment which focuses on team work and the achieving of common goals through various activities offered at the camp".
We were informed that at around 15h00, soon after arriving at the Nyati Bush and River Break, the group of Grade 8 boys took part in a water activity as a team building exercise. It would appear that during the water activity something went horribly wrong, resulting in Enoch Mpianzi being swept down the river.
Enoch's body was found on Friday, 17 January 2020, further down the river from where the water activity had taken place.
The death of Enoch is a great tragedy. The Provincial Government and the Department extends its deepest condolences to the parents, siblings and other family members of Enoch (and the broader school community). We cannot begin to imagine the pain and suffering that this tragedy has caused the family, but we are committed to finding out what happened and to hold those who are responsible for this tragedy accountable.
Numerous media reports have covered the tragedy and, correctly so, tough questions have been raised about whether Parktown Boys High and the Camp site exercised reasonable duty of care in ensuring the health and safety of the group of Grade 8 boys.
What has also emerged from the media reports is the inconsistency of facts and that there may have been serious negligence on the part of the school and the camp.
THE GDE RESPONSE
Since learning about the incident, we have done everything in our power to get to the bottom of this tragedy:
- MEC Lesufi went to the lodge on Friday, 17 January 2020 while the search and rescue teams were searching for Enoch and requested the last people to work with the pupil to take the MEC through the process of the water activity subsequently visited them at their family home.
- Enoch's family and the Grade 8 boys have been provided with counselling and we will continue to provide the family, the boys and the school community with counselling for a reasonable period of time.
- We have met with headmaster, Mr Malcom Williams, because he was also at the camp and requested that he also take us through the events that lead to the death of Enoch.
- Due to the inconsistency of the alleged facts that have been presented to us and that have been reported in the media, and the fact that answers are needed (and to ensure this never happens again), the Department appointed an independent Law firm, Harris Nupen Molebatsi Inc., to investigate the matter.
We are informed that the investigation team has already inspected a number of documents and are currently in the process of interviewing all the relevant people that have information about the matter.
The investigation is being conducted with urgency, however, due to the traumatic nature of this incident, no undue pressure will be placed on any of the witnesses.
The Law Firm has been tasked to investigate the following issues which seeks to get to the bottom of the facts:
- Whether there are merits to the allegations and all the circumstances surrounding them.
- The conduct of any Educator(s), School Mananpmpnt Team and the Prinrinal in the Management Team and the Principal in the reported case.
- Whether the school followed a correct process in embarking on the Camp.
- Was the Camp authorized, what procedure was followed by the school or School Governing Body in deciding to take the learners to the camp.
- What was the obligation of the camp/lodge in relation to the safety of learners in the premises and what guarantees did the camp have in ensuring the safety of learners.
- Does the school insurance cover this type of activity.
- When did the educators and camp management realise that the learner was missing, and what procedure was followed by the school to report the missing learner.
- Whether the matter was reported to the Department, whether the Department is liable in any way or not, whether there was any omission on the part of the Department and what can the Department do to address the problem.
- Whether there is a general problem of this nature at the school. The role, if any, of the School Governing Body in this case.
- Whether counselling was provided or not and whether it is necessary to provide it now.
It is our belief that the scope of the investigations is sufficiently wide and far-reaching to enable us to comprehend the circumstances that led to the drowning and death of the deceased learner. Our primary goal and ultimate resolution remains to
Of authority and have responsibility to care for an support our learners in schools. In this regard, we have concluded that the principal of the school is the delegated authority with the responsibility for the safety of our learners in schools.
We have therefore served the Headmaster of Parktown Boys High School with a letter of precautionary suspension in order for the investigations to proceed without hindrance.
In addition, we have considered that there are District officials that have a case to answer in respect of the processing of the application for the trip which should also have required that all the safety aspects of the application are adhered to.
In this regard, we have directed that officials who handled the file of application for the trip be served with letters of precautionary suspension as investigations are being carried out.
The School Governing Body (SGB) of the school will not escape our scrutiny. We will be guided by parents of the school later this evening on the kind of action we should take or not take.
LAERSKOOL BEKKER TRAGEDY
In the same week, we also received with regret a report of the death by drowning of yet another 13-year-old learner, Keamohetswe Shaun Seboko, from Bekker Primary School in Magaliesburg. Keamohetswe was a learner in boarding at the school.
It is reported that on 1 5 January 2020, the learner drowned at the school pool. The school reported that other learners were immediately taken away from the scene and that the necessary emergency medical procedures were performed, unfortunately, the learner was declared dead. The matter was a report of the death by drowning of yet another 13-year-old learner, Keamohetswe Shaun Seboko, from Bekker Primary School in Magaliesburg. Keamohetswe was a learner in boarding at the school.
The matter was reported to the South African Police Services (SAPS) and investigations are underway in this regard.
A death of one child, especially in our care is a death too many. We are committed to guarantee the safety of learners in our care. Therefore, we have appointed a law firm, Ndobela Lamola Inc (Attorneys) to investigate this case and report on the findings. Once findings are made, we will take the necessary steps required to remedy the situation.
We are now urging the investigation team to move with speed and finalize their investigation.
Issued by the Gauteng Department of Education, 24 January 2020