Grief stricken brother says they are not satisfied with how teachers and principal handled bullying incident.
Every afternoon when Lufuno Mavhunga returned from school she would lock herself in her room to study.
She would wake up every morning and catch the 6:00 am bus to school. The bus would drive 35km from her home village to Mbilwi Secondary School in Sibasa, Limpopo. This been her life since 2019.
Lufuno did this because she wanted to become a medical doctor once she completed her schooling.
According to Lufuno’s family, the 15-year old would repeat this ritual, come back home and lock herself into her room. Her family would not suspect anything sinister. She would kill herself.
Lufuno passed away on Monday evening after she allegedly consumed a dosage of mixed pills. This happened a few hours after she was recorded being assaulted by other learners in a video that went viral on social media.
The assault – which happened in full view of other learners – has now raised questions about whether teachers and school management could have acted differently after learning of the incident.
Lufuno’s older brother Kenneth Mavhunga charged said the bullying continued “right in front of the educators who were trying to handle the matter after the two learners were taken to the principal’s offices immediately after the incident.”
He added: “Although we cannot blame anyone about the death of our younger sister Lufuno, who was also a last born in the family of 10 children, we still believe that the school management should have handled this matter differently.”
“If they handled this matter differently, we believe that maybe Lufuno would still be alive today. Our concern is that the management allowed the bullying to continue against Lufuno right in front of them,” said Mavhunga.
Limpopo education department spokesperson Tidimalo Chuene said in response to the comments by Mavhunga: “We have noted the concerns and they cannot be ignored.”
Chuene said action will be taken once the head of department receives a report from the district director into the bullying incident. She said the process which started last week has been delayed by the deaths in a road accident of six learners from the Jim Chavani Secondary school, Shikundu village in the Collins Chabane local municipality on Friday.
Provincial education officials visited the school and families of the deceased learners on Monday.
Lufuno’s parents said they have reported the bullying incident to the school a number of times.
In the video that went viral last Monday, Lufuno was seen standing against the wall, trying to protect her face from the bully girl, also 15. The girl repeatedly slapped her across the face while fellow learners cheered on.
The incident has raised calls for the authorities to take action against bullying in schools.
Last week, minister of basic education Angie Motshekga visited the school. Motshega said teachers would be taken through a disciplinary process but added that such action would be guided by the contents of the report into the incident.
Meanwhile, the family continues to deal with the grief.
“As a last-born, we all put our hope on Lufuno to see her achieving great things in life, especially educationally. She always promised everyone on the family that she was going to carry the flag of the family very high and we believed her,” said Mavhunga.
He painted a picture of Lufuno as a dedicated learner who loved her books.
“Every day she comes back from school, she would get her meal and lock herself in the room and study. Even the day of the fateful incident, she came back and explained what happened to her parents. They tried to speak to her and she went to her room as normal. As elders, they did not see any bad sign until when they checked her later in the room where they found that she consumed a lot of pills,” said Mavhunga.
The Limpopo department of education said the untimely tragic death of Lufuno should send a strong message to all bullies and discourage them to stop their inhumane behavior.
In responde, Mavhunga said, “I hope that my younger sister’s death will serve as a wake-up call. Although we never expected Lufuno to leave us so early, we believe that with time we will be able to heal. However, we hope that Lufuno’s death will serve as a lesson to us all, especially parents, that we must start to look into what our children our doing behind our back.”
“As a family, the school management did not call us to inform us about the incident. We just suspect that if they warned us before she comes home, we have been better prepared by the time she arrived home,” he said.
Lufuno was born in February 2005. She attended a local crèche before she started her primary education at Tshikombani Primary.
After passing grade five, she asked her parents, Joseph and Fulufhelo, to be transferred to Tshirenzheni Primary, “because she felt that the standard at her former school was too low for her ambitions of becoming a medical doctor when she grow up.”
It was also because of her aspirations and dreams that prompted her parents to seek her admission at Mbilwi, because of its good record of producing good matric results, including Maths and Science, which put them in the Club of 100 every year.
Mavhunga confirmed that the school informed them about the case they opened against the bully learner who appeared before the Thohoyandou Magistrate’s court on Friday.
The learner cannot be named as she is a minor. Limpopo police spokesperson, Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said Lufuno was found lying unconscious in her room by her mother, Fulufhelo.
She was taken to Siloam Hospital by an ambulance where she was later certified dead. Mojapelo confirmed that an inquest docket was opened following Lufuno’s death.
Limpopo regional spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority advocate Mashudu Malabi Dzhangi said the arrested learner will be dealt with according to the Child Justice Act prescripts. The matter was remanded to 20 April 2021 for a formal bail application in the Thohoyandou Magistrate Children’s Court. The case will be heard in camera.
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said its investigations so far indicate that the principal of the school, Nyambeni Lidzhade, “failed to take appropriate action when the Mavhunga family informed him about the incident.”
The commission said they conducted a fact-finding visit to the school on Wednesday.
Chuene said Lidzhade planned to make a follow-up on the matter the following day, the Tuesday after the incident. The chairperson of the School Governing Body, FR Netshitavhe, says they are fully behind the school management and the way they handled the matter so far. – Mukurukuru Media