'When people laughed at him, I would wipe his tears': Friend of schoolboy who fell to his death

Ferndale High pupil achieved impressive marks in spite of illness

14 February 2020 - 14:51 By Nonkululeko Njilo
A memorial service was held at Ferndale High School for the late grade 10 pupil Kelebogile Reuben Molopyane on February 14 2020.
A memorial service was held at Ferndale High School for the late grade 10 pupil Kelebogile Reuben Molopyane on February 14 2020.
Image: Deepika Naidoo

Mourners at the memorial service of a grade 10 pupil, Kelebogile Reuben Molopyane, on Friday sobbed as speakers gave moving tributes about his time at Ferndale High School.

The 16-year-old, who had experienced epileptic seizures, succumbed to his injuries after plunging from the Johannesburg school’s second floor balcony on Monday.

“He was more than just a friend, but a brother,” said an emotional Irvine Thamane.

“He approached me and told me about his seizure condition and asked me to be his friend because he was lonely.”

Thamane recalled how he too was lonely at the time, as he had been new to the school, and Molopyane had made him feel warm and welcome.

“I always carried his bag when he was not feeling well, whenever people laughed at him, I would wipe his tears and fight for him ...,” the friend said.

Molopyane's grade 8 teacher, Vusi Malevu, who was among the scores of people who filled the hall, said he had hoped the teen would live a long life, despite his illness.

“I had hoped to see him grow into a great soul ... but it was not meant to be.”

He shared how the pupil often had to stay away from school due to illness, but “each time he returned, he would say, 'papa I am better this time',” said Malevu.

“Kele raged, fought the epileptic seizures with every ounce of strength he could muster ... he refused to give in.

“We all saw how he suffered to the very end. Now we must allow him to rest in peace,” said Malevu.

Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi speaks at the memorial service for Kelebogile Reuben Molopyane at Ferndale High School in Johannesburg on February 14 2020.
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi speaks at the memorial service for Kelebogile Reuben Molopyane at Ferndale High School in Johannesburg on February 14 2020.
Image: Deepika Naidoo

Mourners heard how the teen loved mathematics, technology and engineering — subjects which a lot of pupils did not.

“He had multiple talents ... he achieved impressive marks in spite of his illness.

“His death leaves a vacuum in my heart, that cannot be filled,” said Malevu.

The teacher said the teen’s death had united the school in a manner that had not been anticipated. “It's like he is reaching from beyond to make us united more than ever before.”

Gauteng MEC for education Panyaza Lesufi urged the mourners to accept Molopyane’s death while simultaneously saying he hoped it would be the last pupil death he would have to attend to.

“Here I am once more persuading you learners to accept death. Here I am, dear teachers, persuading you to comfort our learners. We can’t be teaching our learners to write an obituary and not a poem,” he said.

-Graduate interns Sisanda Mbolekwa and Deepika Naidoo contributed to this article


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