Eastern Cape pupil Avethandwa Nokhangela died in a tragic drowning incident while at an Equal Education camp. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)
Eastern Cape pupil Avethandwa Nokhangela died in a tragic drowning incident while at an Equal Education camp. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

DBE calls for investigation into the drowning of Eastern Cape learner at an EE camp

By Zodidi Dano Time of article published May 10, 2021

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The Department of Basic Education (DEB) has called for an investigation into the death of Eastern Cape learner Avethandwa Nokhangela, 15, who drowned at an Equal Education (EE) leadership camp outside East London on April 29.

The EE said Avethandwa got into distress while swimming during a scheduled break.

The provincial education department said concerned community members alerted it to the incident.

The DBE said: “The DBE supports 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 Services 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.”

In a letter to the province's acting Head of Department, the EE said it had informed the department on that same day the drowning occurred.

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

Meanwhile, the EE said it was heartbroken by the grief of Avethandwa’s family and friends, its members and staff.

“We are devastated by this loss of a daughter and sister, a comrade and friend, and a smart and bubbly young activist leader. We are heartbroken by the grief her family and friends are experiencing, as well as our members and staff.

“The Equal Education Law Centre is conducting a fact-finding investigation into this tragedy. The outcomes will be handed over to an independent reviewer. This will be finalised as soon as possible. Equal Education staff who were present at the camp, and other people who were there, have already been interviewed,” the education right’s group said.

It said that depending on the outcome of the investigation, disciplinary action would be taken if necessary. As a precaution, it would review its camp safety process and suspend all camps until the review was finalised.

“We believe that the long process of healing will be enabled through supporting those directly affected by this tragedy, especially Avethandwa’s family but including our members and staff, who have lost a comrade and friend,” the EE said.

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