'I've run out of ways to comfort families': Lesufi on deaths of 14 pupils, four teachers in Gauteng
The deaths of 14 pupils and four teachers in Gauteng since the start of the year has taken an emotional toll on him, provincial education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said on Friday.
He was speaking at a memorial service for Kelebogile Reuben Molopyane, a grade 10 pupil who died after allegedly falling from the second floor at Ferndale High School in Johannesburg.
“I am emotionally devastated. I am emotionally drained. But whatever remains of me, I want to deposit it into Kele’s family and say that we are sorry,” said a devastated Lesufi.
Molopyane's grandmother could not contain her emotions as she took to the podium to speak about his death which she learnt about on television.
“When I saw the incident on television, I said not again. Little did I know they were talking about my grandson,” said Thelma Thoane.
She said the family had made peace with what happened. “We have made peace with it, we are grateful to the school, school governing body and educators for trying to save the life of our beloved boy ... All is well, we cannot question or judge God.”
Thoane said like any other family, they had anticipated Molopyane would be successful and graduate from university after placing him in a good school in Johannesburg instead of an “under-resourced” one in Garankuwa.
Lesufi has had to grapple with visiting the families of those who have died.
“Here I am again confronted with the task of looking at parents to say that I am sorry. I’ve run out of words to say that I am sorry. I’ve run out of ways to comfort families. I am emotionally drained,” he said.
Lesufi first visited the school on Tuesday, a day after the tragedy.
“When I was here to receive a report of what happened I, together with district and school leadership, said to our creator: 'If you are sending a message to us we have received that message. We have seen whatever you are wanting to indicate to us. Let Kele be the last one',” he said.
Lesufi said that after these words were uttered, he received another call notifying him about a pupil in Tshwane who was struck by a car driven by a teacher.
“We mustn’t allow death to manage us, we must manage death ...
“I wish I had an answer, I wish I could respond to messages. I wish I could plead to them that it’s enough now. If this was a game let it be game over,” added Lesufi.
Molopyane is expected to be laid to rest on Sunday.