Education department to investigate Phoenix pupil’s suicide | - South Africa News

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Durban – After allegedly being reprimanded for hugging a male classmate, a Phoenix teenager committed suicide by overdosing on prescription medication meant to treat high blood pressure.

The 15-year-old died on May 19 after being in the intensive care unit at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital for three days.

This week, the Department of Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the allegations against the school would be investigated.

The chairperson of the school governing body has denied allegations that the teenager ended her life as a result of bullying, as widely circulated on social media, or over harsh treatment meted out to her by the principal.

He claimed the grade 10 pupil and a male pupil had been in a relationship, and on three occasions were caught hugging and kissing at school. They allegedly received verbal warnings about inappropriate behaviour and were counselled by senior teachers.

The chairperson said during the recent incident on May 17, the principal found them allegedly “hugging and sitting in a compromising position”.

“Both pupils were taken to the office where they were issued with letters to bring in their parents.Their parents were also contacted in their presence and informed about the relationship and meeting. The school was merely following its code of conduct. The allegations of bullying on social media are dragging the school’s reputation through the mud.”

A source close to the family, who declined to be named, said the teenager did not have a boyfriend and the school had never informed the parents about the alleged relationship.

She said when the teenager arrived at school on May 17, she did hug the male classmate, who was merely “a friend”.

The principal, she said, witnessed this and hurled insults at the female pupil in front of her peers.

She was allegedly taken to the principal’s office where she was “harshly reprimanded”. The source claimed this was done in front of another parent.

“We are not certain exactly what was said to her, but she was left shaken and embarrassed. When she returned home after school, she was with her brothers. Without them knowing, she consumed dozens of prescription pills meant to treat high blood pressure.”

The pills allegedly belonged to the victim’s mother. When her parents returned home from work, she started vomiting.

“They took her to a clinic in Unit 10 (in Phoenix) for treatment. She was then transferred to the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital where doctors confirmed she had taken an overdose.”

She was then taken to the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital where she died last Sunday.

“Her death has left a huge void in her family’s life. Her mother is destroyed. They shared a strong bond and were like best friends. Her father and three brothers did everything to protect her. They are all hurting.”

She said they wanted the Department of Education to reinstate guidance counselling in schools.

“Classrooms are overcrowded and teachers do not have the time to deal with pupils’ personal challenges. Having a designated person will benefit pupils immensely,” the source said.

Since March 2018 four teenagers have taken their own lives in Phoenix. On Monday, a night vigil was held outside the school. 

eThekwini deputy mayor Fawzia Peer and Finance MEC Ravi Pillay attended.

Peer said: “Children’s emotions are such that they take things seriously and this could have been prevented. Bullying by teachers or principals is not on. Teachers are like parents and they need to be an example to the young ones We need to meet with principals in Phoenix to get to the bottom of what’s going on. We have to prevent it and get to the core of it.”

Pillay told the gathering comprising residents, councillors and community activists that he had addressed the matter with education officials and encouraged the community not to play the blame game.

“We need to embrace the school, principal, teachers, and pupils to get through this. We need to follow due processes, which will bring accountability.”

Saras Perumal, from Phoenix Child Welfare, said teen suicide was on the increase because pupils were unable to deal with stress.

“Their minds are fragile and when they feel backed into a corner, they see no other way out but to end their lives.”


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