Date: Mar 6, 2020

South Africa: After Enock Mpianzi’s tragic death, learner safety must come first

In response to the findings of negligence, recklessness and liability in the forensic report into the death of Enock Mpianzi this week, Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, said:

“The tragic death of Enock Mpianzi should be a decisive wake-up call to education authorities around the country to address poor safety conditions whether they are on school premises or outside where learners are being supervised by staff. No child should die at school or in school care. Schools should be places where learners can safely learn as well as undertake extracurricular activities as they prepare for their futures.

“Enock was not the only learner to die in the first few months of the 2020 school year. No child should be a statistic and, regardless of the circumstances, every death needs to be rigorously investigated, lessons learned and appropriate remedial action taken.

“Enock Mpianzi deserves justice and this report is the first step. Children have a right to feel safe both at school, and when in the care of teachers, school officials and others in loco parentis when not on school premises.”

BACKGROUND

Enock Mpianzi, 13, a Grade 8 learner at Parktown Boys’ High School in Johannesburg, was swept away in the Crocodile River while attending an orientation camp at Nyati Bush and River Break Lodge near Brits in the North West on 15 January 2020. He drowned after a makeshift raft he and other boys were on overturned in the river. None of the children were wearing lifejackets.

The recommendations made in the forensic report include that the headmaster and some of the educators involved face a disciplinary hearing. It further found that the school and the school governing board must be held liable for negligence for failing to secure the appropriate authorisation for the camp from the Gauteng Education Department. The report also found that the lodge where the incident took place should be held liable for the dangerous conditions at the camp.

Amnesty International South Africa launched its report on education, Broken and Unequal: The State of Education in South Africa, last month. It considers, among a range of issues, safety and security at schools.

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Mienke Steytler, Media and Digital Content Officer, Amnesty International South Africa: +27 11 283 6033 (office) or +27 (0)64 890 9224 (mobile); mienke.steytler@amnesty.org.za