In a heart-wrenching farewell, the community came together to bid a sombre adieu to Sphelele Khuzwayo, a young learner from Midrand High School who tragically took his own life. The emotional send-off took place on September 9 when Sphelele, a teenager from Noordwyk, was laid to rest at the Waterfall City Cemetery. The profound impact of his loss was felt earlier, on September 7, during a moving memorial service where his fellow students couldn’t hold back their tears.
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Sphelele, a Grade 9 learner at the tender age of 15, left behind a community grappling with profound grief and questions. His father, Sibusiso Khuzwayo, confirmed the devastating circumstances of his son’s passing – that he had taken his own life by hanging himself on August 31 at their home in Noordwyk.
Sibusiso, amid his sorrow, expressed bewilderment over the tragedy, revealing that he initially considered the possibility of bullying but knew his son as a resilient individual who would stand up for himself. He suspected something darker, perhaps a demonic possession, might have overwhelmed his son, leading him down this tragic path.
Remarkably, despite his unimaginable loss, Sibusiso chose not to blame anyone for his son’s decision. Instead, he emphasised the enormity of the loss to him and the family. Sphelele was remembered as a polite, gentle, and loving young man characterised by his bravery.
In the wake of a disturbing increase in learner suicides, Gauteng MEC of Education, Matome Chiloane has taken significant steps to address the crisis. The department has deployed 500 learner support agent coaches to combat this deeply concerning issue. Speaking on International Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, Chiloane outlined the department’s commitment to partnering with various organisationss, including the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), Childline, the Teddy Bear Foundation, and the National Association of Child and Youth Care Workers, to provide vital support for learners dealing with psychological challenges that can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions.
Chiloane detailed the learner suicide prevention interventions, which encompass early warning mechanisms through the learner support agents, peer counselling for over 1,200 schools, additional social workers for risk assessments, and Ke Moja coaches to raise awareness about substance abuse and offer free counselling services to learners and teachers.
Tragically, Chiloane disclosed that the department had received reports of no less than 300 learner deaths, including 40 suspected suicides, since the beginning of the year. In the face of this heart-wrenching crisis, support organisations like the Suicide Crisis Helpline at 0800 567 567 are vital in providing assistance and guidance to those who need it most.
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Photo: Supplied by the Midrand Reporter