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Parktown Boys' High trip was not authorised, law firm appointed to investigate - Panyaza Lesufi

A week after the tragic news of a grade 8 pupil’s death during a school camp made headlines, Gauteng MEC for education Panyaza Lesufi has revealed that the Parktown Boys' High class of 2020 went on the trip before being granted authorisation.

The Gauteng education department said on Friday that the school's principal, Malcolm Williams, had been suspended with immediate effect after the death of Enoch Mpianzi. The 13-year-old Parktown pupil died last week during a river rafting activity while on an orientation camp, leading to widespread claims of negligence on behalf of the school and the camp staff.

Lesufi told a news briefing the camping trip had not been approved by the department at a district level. The school, he said, insisted on going on the trip regardless of completion, with Lesufi placing the blame on Williams for allowing this.

He also announced that the officials at a district level who did not flag the request with the department’s head office would also be immediately suspended.

Lesufi said that the teachers on the trip would be charged individually based on an investigation into whether they were guilty of negligent behaviour.

According to Lesufi, all water-related activities in the province must get authorisation from the education department’s head office.

“The school had made an application to the district to approve the trip. However, the district and the head office had not approved the trip, thus making it an unauthorised activity.

“The principal will be suspended,” Lesufi said during a media briefing in Johannesburg on Friday.

It is gazetted that a school needs to apply three months before any trip. In this case, the application did not meet the required time frame.

The department also questioned the conduct of the officials who dealt with the school's application.

“The district officials who handled this application should have indicated to the school about the progress of their application. They should have indicated to head office whether they can approve the trip or not. All the officials who handled the application at the district will be suspended,” Lesufi said.

Lesufi said the department had appointed an independent law firm, Harris Nupen Molebatsi Attorneys, to help it in the matter. Preliminary investigations are already under way.

The investigation will determine whether any teacher, school manager or the principal had acted in bad faith, if the trip was authorised, what safety measures were taken and whether the school had insurance for such incidents. It will also determine who is liable.  

“During the water activity, something went terribly wrong. He was swept away and found further down from the river. We cannot begin to imagine the pain of this family,” the MEC said.

“Enoch’s family and the boys have been provided with counselling.”

A final report is anticipated in three months time.

In 2018, the same law firm released a report commissioned by the GDE in the wake of the case against Parktown Boys' water polo assistant coach Collan Rex.

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