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Report on Gauteng learner Latoya Temilton’s tragic death released

The law firm tasked with probing the death of Laerskool Queenswood Grade 7 learner Latoya Temilton, who drowned and died during a school excursion, says the principal and educators should be charged for misconduct.

Temilton, tragically lost her life in January this year during a school leadership camp at Wag ‘n Bietjie Campsite in Olifantsfontein. Gauteng Education MEC Matome Chiloane released the report on Thursday, 4 April.

REPORT ON THE DEATH OF LATOYA TEMILTON SHARED

Following the incident, the Gauteng Department of Education appointed Nchupetsang Incorporated Attorneys to investigate and compile a report on the tragic death of the young girl.

Initially, the probe was expected to be complete within seven days. However, several factors caused a delay including receiving the post-mortem report, which was only provided on 26 February. The post-mortem report confirmed that the cause of death was drowning.

As per the findings, on 23 November 2023, Latoya’s parents received a letter notifying them of her selection as one of 24 learners chosen to attend a one-day leadership camp on 20 January 2024 to identify Head Leaders. The school principal and Head of Department signed the letter.

The camp reportedly commenced with various activities. These included team-building exercises, lectures on leadership and problem-solving, and swimming activities in the afternoon when the tragic incident occurred between 15:00 and 15:30.

A few learners indicated that Latoya could not swim and saw her doing handstands. Some learners indicated that they saw Latoya (whose parents confirmed she could not swim) flap her hands and thought she was joking. Learners were allegedly swimming unsupervised.

The report also revealed that Latoya’s mother advised that this had been indicated to the school in previous excursions. However, the indemnity form for this excursion was only given to Latoya’s dad on the morning of the excursion, and he did not have an opportunity to complete the form entirely.

ADVERSE FINDINGS AGAINST LAERSKOOL QUEENSWOOD

Nchupetsang Attorneys identified several consistent facts during their interviews: The camp where the incident occurred was designated as a leadership camp for the 2024 prefects organised by the school.

During a media briefing on Thursday, Education MEC Matome Chiloane said that the law firm identified consistent facts during the investigation.

These are some of the findings:

  • The camp featured a swimming pool included in the programme provided to parents on the day; however, it didn’t seem suitable for children, lacking safety measures such as life jackets or lifeguards.
  • According to some of the learners, when they arrived at the pool area, there were no educators present or lifeguards.
  • A learner from Queenswood Primary School was the one who found Latoya at the bottom of the pool and retrieved her body.
  • The school is said to have promptly reported the incident to district officials on 20 January 2024 and subsequently to the Acting Cluster Leader on 21 January.
  • Chiloane said Nchupetsang Attorneys’ investigation into the tragic incident at the leadership camp revealed several shortcomings in the planning and executing the excursion.

“They found that the principal, deputy principal, and an educator lacked knowledge of the legislative framework for excursions, recommending charges for contravening Section 16A(2)(vi) and (f) and recommended training on excursion regulations.

“Moreover, they highlighted the failure to adhere to Memorandum No. 106 of 2022, which led to a lack of approval process for the excursion. They recommended withdrawing the memorandum and reinstating Regulation 7(1), (2), (3), and (4) of The Regulations on Domestic and International Tours for Learners at Public Schools, 2012,” he said.

Additionally, Chiloane said the law firm noted the absence of parental consent, risk assessment, and adequate safety measures, suggesting charges for contravention of various regulations.

“Furthermore, they recommended charging the principal and educators for contravening a section of the Children’s Act. The Act obliged them to ensure Latoya’s well-being while in their care. The principal and educators should be charged for misconduct for failing to act by their legal duty to supervise and ensure Latoya’s well-being Regulation 8(1)(b) and 10(2)(b) of the Regulations of Domestic and International Tours for Learners at Public Schools, 2012.

“Nchupetsang Attorneys also recommended that the principal and educators be charged with misconduct for providing dishonest and falsified information to the Department and its agent, following their testimonies, which contradicted those of the learners,” he added.

Gauteng Education MEC Matome Chiloane held a media briefing at Laerskool Queenswood on Thursday following a probe on the tragic death of Latoya Temilton. Image: Gauteng Education.

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