Fact-finding probe into drowning of pupil at camp almost complete

Avethandwa Nokhangela drowned during a leadership camp.
Avethandwa Nokhangela drowned during a leadership camp.

The national council of Equal Education said a fact-finding process undertaken by the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) into the tragic drowning of school pupil Avethandwa Nokhangela will be concluded on Friday.

According to the council, the process began within 48 hours of the accident.

“The family let us know this past Sunday ...  that they have decided not to provide statements for the fact-finding process, but will participate in the independent investigation,” said the council.

Final interviews were done from May 21 to 23 as part of the fact-finding process.

The 15-year-old grade 10 pupil from Xolani High School in the Eastern Cape drowned last month during an Equal Education leadership camp at a resort outside East London.

The council has appointed an independent panel to review the fact-finding process undertaken by EELC and make findings on the circumstances of the tragedy.

“We believe that the compassionate approach which was to prioritise support to the grieving family, learners and our staff was the correct one in the circumstances. We also chose to respect Avethandwa’s family’s request for space after laying her to rest. Not only would divulging details in these circumstances have been insensitive and uncaring; it would prejudice the EELC’s fact-finding inquiry and the work of the independent panel,” said the group.

The council said the panel conducting the independent investigation would consist of highly experienced advocates including Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC, Frances Hobden and Lunga Siyo.

The panel will recommend possible restorative justice processes between Equal Education and Avethandwa's family and make findings related to Equal Education and accountability or remedial measures that may need to be taken.

“The independent investigation will be conducted as swiftly as possible. While we do not wish to be prescriptive to the independent process, it is our sincere hope that the panel can complete their investigation within eight weeks. The independent investigation report will be handed to the national council (board) of Equal Education to consider what action should be taken,” said the council.

It said Equal Education could not publish the outcome of the independent review as the subject matter concerned minors.

“The contents are privileged and may be relevant to the official processes being undertaken by the police. This will be revisited once the independent review process has been concluded and there is greater clarity regarding the police inquest.”


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