Durban — Lifesaving South Africa has emphasised that there are simple drowning preventive measures, following the recent death of a pupil in a drowning incident.
On January 20, Latoya Temilton, 12, a Grade 7 pupil of Laerskool Queenswood in Pretoria, attended a one-day excursion to Wag ’n Bietjie Resort in Witkoppen, Olifantsfontein, where she allegedly drowned.
Lifesaving SA president Dhaya Sewduth conveyed condolences to Latoya’s family.
It is deeply tragic news in the knowledge that drownings are preventable, Sewduth said.
He said Lifesaving SA has ramped up its messaging, promoting the UN and World Health Organization slogans that “Anyone can drown, No One Should”.
Sewduth also said that although the details surrounding the tragic incident are unclear, Lifesaving SA emphasises that preventive measures are quite simple: there should be trained lifeguards on duty around any aquatic activity, including school galas and outings.
“Lifesaving SA has repeatedly called on the government and other authorities to develop policies and legislation that will prevent drownings at events involving school excursions, camps, and trips. If there was legislation in place that implores facilities and schools to ensure safety measures are put in place, then tragic incidents can be prevented,” Sewduth said.
“The lack of legislation and policies governing safety seems to point to a lack of consequence management. South Africa has many skilled lifeguards who are unemployed or work seasonally and would jump at the opportunity to take on the employment, even if it is casual or over weekends.”
Sewduth said that over the years, there have been several avoidable tragedies involving school pupils.
Enock Mpianzi, a Parktown Boys’ High School pupil, drowned during a school camp to the Crocodile River in early 2020. In March 2022, two Hoërskool Birchleigh pupils drowned at a Durban beach after a school rugby tournament. Last year, two schoolgirls drowned at an unpatrolled beach in eManzimtoti on their way back from a career expo in the city.
Sewduth said there have been numerous cases over the years and these unfortunate tragedies may have been avoided with sufficient safety policies in place from the Department of Education.
He explained that the school-going age bracket of 5 to 15 years for death by drowning is globally rated as second behind traffic accident deaths.
“We encourage the Department of Education to use this opportunity to put measures in place to reduce the risks taken by scholars with additional emphasis on those who cross rivers and waterways every day to get to schools. The risks faced by our youth increase when one considers the frequency of heavy rainfall and flooding in many parts of South Africa,” Sewduth said.
“With over 100 years of drowning prevention and lifeguard training, Lifesaving SA calls on the Minister of Education to work together with all stakeholders in ensuring policies and legislation are put in place to prevent drownings. In the interim, Lifesaving SA is always available to provide details of our 86 lifesaving clubs across the country, while our drowning prevention learning resources are open to every school in the country. The WaterSmart Programme is available via in-person presentations to school pupils and the newly launched E-Learning Hub, which is a digitised version accessible through mobile connectivity and devices.”
The Department of Basic Education has been approached for comment.
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