Gauteng MEC for education Panyaza Lesufi said he was devastated by the news of the death of a 13-year-old Grade 8 pupil from Parktown Boys’ High School.
The pupil apparently drowned during a class trip in the North West.
Speaking to the media in Johannesburg on Friday, Lesufi said they were investigating the circumstances that led to Enock Mpianzi’s death and would “do everything in their power to compile a proper report”.
Enock was reportedly last seen on Wednesday during a water activity on a makeshift raft, and his lifeless body was recovered on Friday morning.
Lesufi said Enock’s parents were very emotional and had “cried uncontrollably” on the scene.
“The police brought the body and we had to take the family to confirm and verify the body, and they indeed did that,” he said.
He said the family, who were originally from northern DRC, described him as a “very kind person” and said he had been excited about the trip.
“The mother told me that when she went to wake him up [on the morning of the trip], he was not sleeping and he expressed that he was very excited for the trip,” Lesufi said. He added that she said her son had wanted to become a lawyer.
Lesufi said when he got to the scene he had asked the people present to take him through the exercise the boys were doing when the incident occurred.
“What they said was that it was like a simulation where learners were jumping off an aircraft and they had to cross the river with somebody who is injured. So, they had to build some craft and use that to cross the river,” he explained.
Lesufi said the group only realised at a later stage during a headcount that the boy was missing.
“When they checked again, they realised indeed that there was someone missing because their belongings were there. That’s when they raised the alarm,” he said.
North West police rescue teams at the bank of the river on Friday morning. Picture: Panyaza Lesufi/Twitter
Lesufi said counsellors were on standby on Friday morning to counsel the school children, and when the learners were brought back to Johannesburg.
When probed on how many teachers were present during the camp and why a case was only opened with the police on Thursday afternoon, Lesufi said he had not had time to interrogate the information he was given, as the priority was to find the missing child.
On whether the children were wearing life jackets, he said that information had not been made available to him as yet.
“It is a difficult period… We are in pain. It is a difficult situation,” he said.
The department has extended its “sincere condolences to the family, to the school community and to all those who were affected, especially friends of the boy”.