Little girl drowns at school

2009-01-22 00:00

THE excitement of starting school ended in death for a seven-year-old girl who drowned at Bisley Primary School on her second day of school yesterday just after noon.

The girl’s foster granny, Sarafina Mncwabe, said a jolly little Akhona Mbhense had hugged her goodbye hours earlier on her way to school. She said she can not believe Akhona is gone.

Although Mncwabe was prohibited by social workers from disclosing circumstances around the fostering, she said it was love at first sight when she first took Akhona and her five-year-old sister in to live with her in Oribi Village two years ago.

“I’m very heartsore. They were not like my own grandchildren, they were [my grandchildren] because that’s how I saw them,” she said.

School principal Brian Killeen said Akhona was in the pool with 70 other grade one, two and three children during a swimming class.

The three teachers watching over them were alerted by the children, who saw Akhona’s body at the bottom of the pool. Killeen told The Witness that two of the teachers tried in vain to resuscitate her, while the other teacher ran to call an ambulance.

The ambulance arrived 12 minutes later, followed shortly by the Netcare 911 paramedics, but they were unable to save Akhona, though they tried for 45 minutes.

“We are devastated by the accident. It is a dreadful thing to have happened and the first [such incident] in our history,” he said.

None of the teachers were in the pool with the children. Killeen said the teachers are all swimmers and it is actually easier to monitor the children that way.

“It is easy to lay blame, but something like this can happen very quickly. We try to care for the children as much as possible. We are not a rich school, but that is one area where we make an investment by bringing in a professional so that our grade one to three pupils are trained to be confident in water. We feel it is necessary to teach children water safety with the drowning rate in SA so high,” Killeen added.

KZN Education MEC Ina Cronjé said they will conduct a thorough investigation into the accident.

“It is a real tragedy and we are shocked. My sincere condolences, and of the department as a whole, go to the family,” said Cronjé.

The department will be providing psychological counselling to the teachers and pupils.

sphumem@witness.co.za

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