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Lesufi suspends Parktown Boys’ principal after student’s death

The Gauteng department of education has suspended the principal of Parktown Boys’ High School following the death of grade 8 learner Enoch Mpianzi. MEC Panyaza Lesufi announced at a press briefing on Friday that Malcolm Williams had been suspended. He also announced the suspension of the department’s district officials who were involved in the processing of the trip. 

The department would be guided by parents of the school on how it should deal with the school governing body, Lesufi said. The department is having a meeting with parents later on Friday at the University of the Witwatersrand. 

Mpianzi, 13, died at Nyati Bush and Riverbreak in Brits, North West during a “water activity” on makeshift rafts. The school had gone to Nyati for an orientation camp for grade 8 learners.  

Lesufi said things had gone “horribly wrong” during the team building exercise last Wednesday “resulting in Enoch Mpianzi being swept down the river,” Lesufi said, adding that Enoch’s body was only found the following day.

Lesufi said the news of Enoch’s death has been accompanied by inconsistency and media reports have also shown that there might have been “serious negligence”. 

He said the school had made an application to the district to approve the trip but it had not been approved by the district and the department’s head office when the school decided to go on it and therefore it was an “unauthorised activity”.

“Accountability is a value that is paramount to our government in the service of our people. We have enquired the roles of all persons who are in the line of authority and have responsibility to care for and support our learners in schools. 

“In this regard, we have concluded that the principal of the school is the delegated authority with the responsibility for the safety of our learners in schools,” said Lesufi giving reasons why Williams had been suspended. 

Harris Nupen Molebatsi Inc has been tasked to investigate the following issues which seeks to get to the bottom of the facts:

The terms of relevance of investigation are: 

• Whether there are merits to the allegations and all the circumstances surrounding them.

• The conduct of any educator(s), school management team and the principal in the reported case.

• Whether the school followed a correct process in embarking on the Camp.

• Was the Camp authorised, what procedure was followed by the school or school governing body in deciding to take the learners to the camp.

• What was the obligation of the camp/lodge in relation to the safety of learners in the premises and what guarantees did the camp have in ensuring the safety of learners.

• Does the school insurance cover this type of activity?

• When did the educators and camp management realise that the learner was missing, and what procedure was followed by the school to report the missing learner.

• Whether the matter was reported to the department, whether the department is liable in any way or not, whether there was any omission on the part of the department and what can the department do to address the problem.

• Whether there is a general problem of this nature at the school. The role, if any, of the school governing body in this case.

Lesufi also said the teachers who had gone to the camp would also be investigated individually to establish what role they had played. He added that the department would get guidance from the parents of the school on what steps to take with the school governing body. The parents meeting is taking place this evening at Wits. 

However, Lesufi also said that while the school had received negative publicity it still remains one of the best schools in the province and is not a dysfunctional school. But he said there were elements that need to be addressed.

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Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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