After a frustrating parents meeting where the school was not legally allowed to give details of what happened, they called another meeting on Saturday where they were finally able to share with parents what happened to Sunshine.
Contrary to what the newspapers claimed, the fence and gates had been completed and had passed safety inspection, and a full time pool attendant had been hired. The pool attendant cleaned the pool in the morning, and then latched the gate but forgot to put the padlock on. Sunshine’s class was playing in the sandbox below the pool (the ground slopes so it would be difficult for the teachers to see the pool from the sandbox). Sunshine wandered away from her class, unlatched the gate, and tragically fell into the pool. The pool attendant pulled her out and she was still alive at that point – the school administrators and then the EMT workers tried to save her for almost an hour but she didn’t make it.
We have decided to send her back to the school because the school has taken numerous safety measures in response to this tragedy including getting a safety net, a pool alarm, a CCTV camera, and a pool attendant who will be sitting within the fence any time children are at school. The fence, which was one meter high, will be rebuilt to be 2 meters high. The pool has already been drained and there will not be any swimming classes this term out of respect for the family.
During the meeting, parents listed about 6 other schools and pools where young children have drowned recently. Yet, every school that we visited either had a pool on the premises or brought the children to a pool for swimming lessons. I am really uncomfortable with the idea of having swimming at preschool; however, at this point we feel that her current school will be the safest since there won’t be any swimming this term and they have put so many safety measures in place. One parent commented that their pool will now be the “safest pool in Africa.” We will continue to look into other options and then decide if we will continue to send her there next term when swimming classes resume.
In addition, we had put a lot of time and effort into helping Natalie adjust to the school. Natalie can be slow to warm up to new people and places, so I was able to go with her to the school’s “summer camp” and remain with her the whole time, giving her a chance to get to know some of the teachers, the other students, and the school before the new school year started. The first week of school went better than we expected because she was already familiar with the school and one of her teachers. We think that starting her in a new school in the middle of the term would be a very difficult adjustment for her.
Please continue to pray for this situation:
– Pray for Sunshine’s family as they continue to grieve
– Pray for the teachers and administrators who are devastated and have been traumatized by this tragedy
– Pray for the four teachers who are in prison and will be going to court this week. Some of them have young children in prison with them. We learned that it is the police, not the parents, who are pressing charges against the teachers. Although clearly they should have been watching the children more closely, any parent knows that things can happen so quickly with young children and I’m sure they are also devastated by what has happened.
– Pray for peace of mind for us as we send Natalie back to school and for a good adjustment for her as she goes back.