The South African Human Rights Commission (HRC) has offered legal assistance to the families of 13-year-old Enock Mpianzi and 13-year-old Keamohetswe Shaun Seboko. Seboko drowned at the school swimming pool at Laerskool Bekker in Magaliesburg last week. Mpianzi also died last week while on Parktown Boys High school’s Grade 8 Orientation Camp in Brits in the North West.
It’s understood that Mpianzi drowned in the Crocodile River, after a raft he built together with other learners capsized. An investigation into the incident is currently being conducted by the Gauteng Department of Education.
Manager of the HRC in Gauteng Buang Jones says they will be meeting with the Mpianzi family on Monday.
“The South African Human Rights Commission has offered legal assistance to the Enoch Mpianzi family. We are going to meet with the family today to discuss possible legal options and remedies available to them and to see if we can assist in securing appropriate redress on behalf of the family. We stand ready to mediate this matter between the department, the school, and the family, we also stand ready to provide assistance to the family in which to litigate in this matter,” says Jones.
Meanwhile, Human Rights lawyer Richard Spoor says both families can lodge civil claims in the deaths of their children.
“The consequences for a parent if they lose a child are very severe. It leaves a huge hole in their lives, it causes immense emotional distress and trauma, it damages their identity, it takes away a big chunk of the meaning of their lives so yes there are consequences and the law provides for recourse through a civil claim for damages.”
Classes at Parktown Boys High School have been suspended on Monday, to allow for learners to receive counselling.
An investigation into the incident is currently being conducted by the Gauteng Department of Education. Department spokesperson Steve Mabona says, “Parktown Boys have decided to suspend classes for today. Our psycho-social team working with other NGOs you know will also provide counselling to learners. So, they felt that probably it will be prudent for them to suspend classes for today and engage in that process.”
News of Mpianzi’s death led to a public outcry, with many condemning the school for failing not only to ensure his safety but also to report the incident in time.
Director of Adventure Standards Africa, Professor Graeme Addison, says that the right procedures must be followed at all times.
“The right personnel, the right equipment, the right procedures should be followed. We’re not sure what procedures were followed, but, certainly, if the person was a trained professional, that person would know to give a safety talk, to equip the learners with life jackets, to have supervision throughout the event and to take action if somebody goes missing; which, of course, means you’ve got to count heads and you’ve got to act quickly. A person will drown in less than two minutes.”