Lerotholi Polytechnic Acting Rector, Hlomahang Majara, has said the death of two of their students during a trip to Tšehlanyane Park in Butha-Buthe last Saturday was an accident.
Tšepo Lerasa and Leuta Mahao were first and second-year marketing management students respectively at the college popularly known as Fokothi, and drowned during a trip Mr Majara said was not sanctioned by the school authorities.
Advocate Majara insisted the deaths were not the result of the college’s traditional but outlawed initiation of junior students by their seniors, which has resulted in the death of some of the initiates in the past.
According to Advocate Majara, Lerara had been swimming in the river when he was overpowered by the heavy tide, prompting Mahao to jump in and try to rescue him, but both drowned.
Advocate Majara also said the college’s investigation established the deaths were an accident, and so did a probe by the Leribe police.
Advocate Majara told a media briefing on Tuesday: “I was told that after the deaths were broadcast over a certain local radio station, people were calling in saying the tragedy related to the ill-treatment of students (initiation).
“What we are saying is we did our own investigations and there is no foul play suspected.
“It is also important to note that the trip by five male and nine female students was not an official school tour.
“We treat our students as adults, but also insist they should be responsible and ambassadors of the school wherever they are.
“We cannot control students’ movements from Monday to Monday; there are no school regulations that stipulate that students should be monitored over the weekend either.
“I should point out that we are in tertiary, but students know that it’s their own responsibility to conduct themselves in an acceptable manner.”
She continued: “Our heads are bowed and we send our condolences to the families of the deceased, we are going to offer counselling services to those who were on that trip.”
Asked by the Lesotho Times what normally happens during a sanctioned trip, the School of Engineering and Technology Dean, Thabo Fonya, said there should always be a member of staff on such a tour.
“This was not the case on this trip because it was not official,” said Mr Fonya.