Trips to foreign destinations are exciting opportunities for students to learn about a range of topics, from ecology to culture. For those in charge, however, such excursions are often not for the faint-hearted.
A trip to Fiji for Grade 10 students at St Catherine’s School, a private girls’ school in Toorak, Melbourne, Australia, in late March 2016, turned out to be a disaster. A travel agency was contracted to run the excursion, during which the following unfortunate events transpired:
• A cyclone hit part of the island, leaving the touring party stranded in their accommodation, which became partly flooded.
• The party stayed in a backpackers’ lodge where, according to court papers, the windows were wide open and unprotected by curtains; part of the lodge was stranded when the storm hit; and the ablution block was not easily accessible and toilets soon became blocked.
• Other guests at the lodge drank alcohol and intimidated the St Catherine’s students and teachers.
• Eating facilities were inadequate and unhygienic.
• Some girls contracted gastroenteritis and had to be evacuated and hospitalized.
• Other students contracted conjunctivitis.
• St Catherine’s staff had to sleep on couches in a common room.
• Students were expected to participate in dangerous activities, including rafting down a flooding river without requisite safety gear, and riding in a truck without seatbelts and with a punctured tyre.
The misfortune did not end when the students returned from Fiji. Legal troubles have erupted between the staff member who acted as the Melbourne-based “emergency contact” during the trip and school management.
Category: Spring 2016