Equal Education says it has not been silent about its investigation into Eastern Cape learner Avethandwa Nokhangela’s death. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
Equal Education says it has not been silent about its investigation into Eastern Cape learner Avethandwa Nokhangela’s death. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

Equal Education denies claims it’s been silent about the death of Eastern Cape learner

By Zodidi Dano Time of article published May 24, 2021

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Education advocacy group Equal Education (EE) has been called to account for the death of Eastern Cape learner Avethandwa Nokhangela who drowned while at a camp hosted by the non-profit organisation.

It has been four weeks since the 15-year-old Xolani High School learner’s death.

Equal Education has been accused of being mum about the progress of its investigation.

Shortly after the tragedy, the EE said Avethandwa got into distress while swimming during a scheduled break.

Education activist Hendrick Makaneta has called on Parliament's portfolio committee on basic education to institute an inquiry into Equal Education's fitness to work with children.

"We are extremely disturbed by the news of the untimely death of Avethandwa Nokhangela at the camp organised by Equal Education. The portfolio committee on basic education should institute an inquiry into the death of Nokhangela, with a view to ensure that the NGO is held accountable for the incident that has caused trauma and shock to the entire country." Makaneta said.

EE general secretary Noncedo Madubedube told IOL it had responded as quickly and as transparently as possible to every media request since Avethandwa’s passing.

“There has been constant engagement with the family, so we strongly refute the claim that we have been ‘silent’,” she said.

Makaneta accused the EE of failing to protect the learner.

“The terrain of education requires adults who possess the necessary capacity and willingness to observe the duty of care by ensuring that all children are always protected. In the absence of children’s parents at the camp, adults from Equal Education should have served as parents,” said Makaneta.

Meanwhile, Department of Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga tweeted: “So many unanswered questions yet @equal_education is nowhere to take responsibility and shed light publicly on what really happened regarding Avethandwa Nokhangela’s death.”

However, the EE said its fact-finding process had been delayed because of the memorial service and funeral preparations, the availability of the people taking part, as well as school timetables and travel requirements. It was due soon though.

“The fact-finding process will be concluded this week, and the final report as well as all statements taken will be handed over to a highly qualified and respected team of independent investigators, for independent investigation. This is alongside the police inquest that began immediately and is still under way, and the Equal Education Law Centre was tasked to undertake the fact-finding process, before the start of the independent investigation process,” said Madubedube.

The EE said independent investigators would assess the information and be able to conduct their own investigations. The investigators would submit the conclusion and recommendations to the national council (the board) of Equal Education to decide on.

“We are strongly committed to principles of accountability, and that’s why there are dedicated processes under way. There are also public processes already under way, namely the police inquest. We appeal to the public to let these processes run their course,” said Madubedube who added that in EE’s 13 years it had never heard of Makaneta questioning his motives behind the call.

“We are willing to participate in processes that the Eastern Cape Department of Education establishes, and to co-operate fully with the police inquest in order for justice to be best served,” the general secretary said.

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