School pool drowning tragedy

A Woodlands family is crying foul over “conflicting stories” regarding the death of their 13-year-old child at Mountain Rise Primary School.

Ntandoyenkosi Mabaso, a Grade 6 pupil described by family members as a vibrant child who loved sports, dancing and singing to hip hop, telling jokes and drawing, drowned during a swimming lesson at the school on Wednesday afternoon.

His family said they were told by the school on the day Ntandoyenkosi died that he was “still breathing” when he was taken out of the pool and rushed to Northdale Hospital.

But the family had also been told by his classmates that the teacher on duty had not even realised Ntandoyenkosi was drowning, despite his desperately waving his hand for attention, and that the teacher had resorted to getting another pupil to “save” Ntandoyenkosi.

When that failed, the teacher allegedly called the school’s principal, who retrieved him from the pool.

Then, the family says, they were given a third version of events when they — in an attempt to get answers — met with the school’s governing body and the school management on Thursday.

“The teacher [on duty] told us that when she realised he [Ntandoyenkosi] was drowning, she tried to save him using a wooden plank. Then she jumped in when that wasn’t working,” Ntandoyenkosi’s brother, Thamsanqa Dlamini said.

“We were also told by the doctor [at Northdale Hospital] that Ntandoyenkosi had been dead for an hour before he even arrived at the hospital. So what is going on? We want the truth.”

Dlamini alleged that the family was told not to ask certain questions at Thursday’s meeting with the school, since a police investigation was ongoing, and the teacher on duty was still traumatised.

“His T-shirt was covered in blood, and there was blood in his nose and eyes when we saw the body at the hospital,” Ntandoyenkosi’s sister, Sanelisiwe, said. “But the school denied this.”

Ntandoyenkosi’s mother, Nonhlanhla, said the family was unable to make funeral arrangements until they get closure.

“I don’t care about the stories, I just need to know what happened so we can collect his spirit.”

The incident has sent shockwaves through the staff at the school with insiders expressing disbelief that something like this happened.

“Parents will lose faith in us as teachers because of incidents like this. We [as staff] also want to know what happened. This is not a toy; this is a child’s life,” one source said.

There were various rumours circulating after the incident including how many pupils had been in the pool at the time and whether the teacher was suitably qualified as a swimming instructor.

Muzi Mahlambi, a spokesperson for the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education, said they will await the results of the police report.

“If the facts show negligence, then we will take disciplinary action. But we can’t say immediately who was in the wrong … the inquest must show [what happened].”

He said: “We accept the sentiments of the parents, but it is natural that when your child dies, you won’t want to accept what you’re being told at face value so you’ll [accept] theories that say if 1, 2, or 3 happened, he would still be alive.”

Asked whether the teacher on duty was competent enough to oversee swimming lessons, he said: “That teacher is a seasoned teacher. No school would conduct lessons under the watch of a person who wouldn’t know how to do all those things.”

He added: “The child has been swimming for years. This was just an unfortunate incident.”

Police confirmed an inquest into Ntandoyenkosi’s death was underway.