15-year-old Avethandwa Nokhangela from Xolani High School in the Eastern Cape passed away in a drowning incident while taking part in an event at an Equal Education Leadership Camp.
The Department of Basic Education (DBE) spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga, said the department is concerned that the incident took place for so long without any information coming forth. He said the civil organisation failed to report the situation to the provincial department and the local police station in a timeous manner.
Mhlanga said the department was “concerned, shocked and deeply saddened” by the event.
It is understood the grade 10 Eastern Cape pupil was swept out to sea while swimming near a resort in East London on Thursday.
Nokhangela’s lifeless body was recovered from one of the Buffalo Metro beaches last week Friday.
Mhlanga said the Eastern Cape provincial department learnt of this incident when some members of the community raised their concerns following reports involving the death of a learner in the area.
He added that the national department supports the MEC for Education in the Eastern Cape, Fundile Gade, who has called for a full investigation into the circumstances that led to the death of the learner.
“The department in the province received information from the South African Police Service (SAPS) about the incident after the body of the learner was recovered from one of the Buffalo Metro beaches.
“The delay by Equal Education in reporting the matter to the provincial education department raises serious concerns,” said Mhlanga.
He added that Equal Education said they were in contact with the department only in the afternoon on Friday, a day after Avethandwa went missing.
Equal Education only sent their letter of events on 1 May 2021 to acting Eastern Cape Education Department’s head of department Dr Soyisile Nuku, said Mhlanga.
“A thorough investigation into the incident is required to ensure that all the facts are established and that those found responsible must be held to account for the unnecessary loss of life.
“The provincial department has already sent officials to the school to arrange psychosocial support to learners and particularly those who attended the Equal Education event including those left behind at school, educators and the parents of the learner,” said Mhlanga.
Mhlanga added that the department has requested the SAPS assist with the investigation and to consider a criminal case.
He said members of Sea Rescue services and the police assisted the Department officials to piece together details of the incident.
Adding that a full investigation is required to get to the bottom of the matter because it looks like there are a lot of questions that remain unanswered.
The teenager had been one of 30 pupils on an outing with the educational group.
News reports said Noncedo Madubedube, general secretary of Equal Education, said they were devastated by Nokhangela’s death and would support her family during this sad time.
“We are shocked and heartbroken by this loss,” said Madubedube.
“We will do whatever we can to support her family with respect and compassion for their deep pain and grief, and for their wishes and privacy,” she said.
Madubedube added that counselling is being arranged as quickly as possible for Avethandwa’s family, as well as for our members and staff.
“We remember her as a very kind and vibrant young activist. We are establishing an independent investigation into this tragic accident,” she said.
An inquest into the 15-year old’s passing was opened on Saturday after the body was found at sea. The incident took place at the Palm Ridge resort outside East London.
The camp was attended by pupils who were members of Equal Education’s provincial leadership committee representing 19 schools from across the Eastern Cape.