‘The pain is still there’, says family of Limpopo teen who committed suicide after being bullied
The family of 15-year-old Limpopo pupil Lufuno Mavhunga said they were still wounded and in pain after the loss of their daughter.
News of Mavhunga’s death made headlines when the 15-year-old took her own life by overdosing on pills in April, hours after being beaten by another pupil in a bullying incident.
Footage of the incident was shared on social media. It showed Mavhunga being repeatedly slapped.
The Mbilwi Secondary School pupil’s suicide shocked the nation and put the spotlight on school bullying.
“The pain is still there. It is not something that has left our hearts,” said her brother, Dakalo Mavhunga.
“It has damaged my mother so much because she is living on medication. It has badly affected her. It’s really bad. We haven’t forgotten because Lufuno was very young and we were expecting good things from her,” he said.
Dakalo said his sister’s absence will be felt the most this festive season as she was the one who brought the family together and was always cheerful.
“At home during these times she was closest to her mother. During Christmas she was a person who loved cooking and loved having us all together. This is when we feel it and see we have lost her. We haven’t accepted fully but every day it’s changing and we are trying to accept day by day.”
He said the family of the girl who assaulted his sister had not yet made contact.
“We haven’t met them officially. We see them on social media releasing statements and apologising, but we haven’t spoken to them formally,” he said.
Asked if the family has forgiven the girl, Dakalo said: “It comes with time and the process of asking for forgiveness. We can’t say we have welcomed [their apology] because they didn’t ask for forgiveness. They asked forgiveness from people as the issue affected many people, but they haven’t come to our home to do so, I don’t know them, or the girl. We understood they didn’t formally ask for forgiveness from us but it’s like they were asking for forgiveness from the community or nation.”
Dakalo said his sister’s death has left a permanent mark.
“There was an impact after what happened. I see on social media that this thing touched everyone. It has left a mark on a lot of people as they were looking into bullying. At the school they are trying to have programmes to help children and teach them about bullying,” he said.
The incident prompted the basic education department to embark on a nationwide roadshow in a bid to stamp out bullying at schools.
Dakalo said the family was in the process of starting a foundation in Lufuno’s name with the aim of addressing bullying.
“Lufuno use to love saying ‘we are all beautiful but in different ways’. This is why we are trying to encourage children,” he said.
He said the family has decided to focus on the positive side.
“It is painful but there is nothing we can do so we won’t focus on negative things. We are focusing on positive things so we can heal and continue with life so wherever she is, she will be able to see we didn’t reach a point where her death stopped us from seeing life. I believe that wherever she is, she is an angel,” he said.
Lufuno was laid to rest on April 17 in Limpopo.
A 15-year-old was arrested and charged with assault.
She was granted bail of R1,500 with conditions she does not interfere with witnesses and does not travel outside Limpopo without the knowledge of the investigating officer.
Limpopo National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Mashudu Malabi-Dzhangi said the case has been postponed to January 2022 for Director of Public Prosecutions instruction.
This year, the non-governmental organisation World Vision SA revealed bullying incidents in Limpopo were higher than in the other provinces in which it works.
In a Gauteng incident in April, a grade 11 boy from Anchor Comprehensive allegedly stabbed a grade 12 boy from Emadwaleni Secondary School in Orlando West.
The stabbing followed social media reports showing videos where two grade 10 girl pupils were engaged in violent conduct in what appeared to be the toilets at Dinwiddie High School in Germiston.
In the video, one pupil is seen choking the other while she lies on the ground. The pupil continues to pull the other pupil’s hair as she tries to hit back.
In another incident in Cape Town, a grade 8 pupil was filmed setting a classmate’s hair on fire.
The video, shared on social media, showed a girl sitting in class being taunted by a boy who poured liquid on her head. He then set her hair alight. The teacher appeared to have stepped out of class.
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