In the past five years, the number of learners who have drowned during school-related excursions have continued to grow, the latest being a Grade 7 learner from Laerskool Queenswood in Pretoria.
The learner, 12-year-old Latoya Temilton, reportedly died on Saturday while on an approved one-day trip to the Wag ’n Bietjie Resort in Witkoppen, Olifantsfontein.
The Gauteng Education Department reported that the learner reportedly drowned during the excursion.
Gauteng Education MEC Matome Chiloane’s spokesperson, Xolani Mkhwemte, said the police were investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident, with the district and school having visited the learner’s family to convey their condolences.
Mkhwemte said Chiloane had recommended that an independent investigation be conducted.
During an interview with radio personality Anele Mdoda, a local journalist who spoke to some of the parents of learners at the school and the sister recalled how Latoya’s family simply wanted answers as to what happened to their little girl.
According to the reporter, through heart-wrenching voice notes, Latoya’s family had informed her that they dropped her off at school on Saturday with the intention of picking her up at about 4.30pm later that day.
She recounted that the family were shocked to receive a call from the school principal at about 3pm informing them that something bad had happened.
Minutes later, the family was allegedly told that Latoya was gone.
The family allegedly rushed to the camp-site and recalled the details of what they saw and the state the 12-year-old’s body was in, and managed to speak to some of her friends.
The most heartbreaking, however, was that Latoya’s twin brother was said to have also been at the resort.
All he was said to have done was to uncover Latoya’s body and say his goodbyes and according to the sister, he was yet to utter another word since that fateful day.
Mdoda said speaking to other parents from the school who came forward, they had informed her that what angered them the most was that the school had instructed the parents and the children to keep the matter under wraps.
The tweets by the radio personality have sparked a conversation on social media, with parents complaining of the lack of safety of learners during swimming-related excursions.
Drownings of learners while on school-related trips or during swimming activities, however, have kept coming since as far back as 2020, including that of Keamohetswe Seboko, of Laerskool Bekker in Magaliesburg, whose body was found floating in the school’s swimming pool.
In January 2020, 13-year-old Grade 9 pupil Enock Mpianzi, of Parktown Boys’ High School, died on a school camp at the Nyati Bush and Riverbreak lodge in Brits when the makeshift raft he and other pupils had built capsized in the Crocodile River.
During March 2022, two boys from the Hoërskool Birchleigh in Grade 10 and 12, drowned while on a beach trip in Durban for a rugby tour. The learners’ bodies were only found the next day.
In October of the same year, Amohelang Mokoena, a Grade 11 learner at Michael Modisakeng in the North West, also drowned while attending a life skills peer education seminar for boys at a hotel near Rustenburg.
And during December 2022, a Grade 6 boy learner of Refalotse Primary School in Winterveld, Tshwane, died during a school trip.