Eastern Cape education department concerned about EE's delay in reporting drowning of pupil

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  • The Department of Basic Education said it was concerned Equal Education did not immediately report the drowning of Avethandwa Nokhangela during a camping trip.
  • Equal Education said it was in contact with the Eastern Cape education department's head of department the following afternoon.
  • The police have opened an inquest.

The Department of Basic Education says it is concerned Equal Education (EE) did not immediately inform it about the drowning of Eastern Cape pupil Avethandwa Nokhangela during a camping trip.

The Grade 10 pupil from Xolani High School drowned during the trip to the Palm Ridge Holiday Resort near East London on 29 March.

Her body was found after it was swept out to sea.

The 15-year-old was part of a group of 30 pupils who took part in a leadership camp which was organised by EE.

According to department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga, EE stated it was in contact with the Eastern Cape education department's head of department the next day.

"A thorough investigation into the incident is required to ensure that all the facts are established and that those found responsible must be held accountable for the unnecessary loss of life," Mhlanga said.

He added the department learnt of the incident when residents raised concerns following reports about the death of a pupil in the area.

"Members of the sea rescue services and the police assisted department officials to piece together the details."

READ| Police open inquest into drowning of pupil at Eastern Cape leadership camp

EE's general-secretary, Noncedo Madubedube, said Avethandwa drowned during a scheduled break.

"There was supervision on the beach by a staff member who was able to swim and Equalisers [pupils attending the camp] were instructed to only go into the water if they could swim."

Madubedube added the beach was frequented by swimmers however, it did not have a lifeguard but notices about the currents were visible at its entrance.

She said:

While swimming, she got caught in a rip current, which made it impossible to try and reach her.

They notified the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), which arrived 20 minutes after the call was made.

"On the same day [Thursday, 29 April], our Eastern Cape staff members personally went to the family to explain to them what had happened," added Madubedube.

EE said it notified the department the following day about what had happened.

Madubedube previously told News24 their priority on the day of the tragedy had been to inform the NSRI and police, and co-operate with law enforcement processes.

EE added it was conducting a fact-finding investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

The department said it supported Education MEC Fundile Gade's call for a full investigation into the circumstances that led to Avethandwa's death.

On Wednesday, parents and pupils held a memorial service for her at Xolani High School in Zwelitsha, Zone 6.

The department has since sent officials to the school to arrange psycho-social support to pupils, particularly those who attended the camp.

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