Trauma help for suicide school

2009-09-08 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal Education Department has launched an investigation into the suicide of primary schoolboy Nduduzo “Sna” Qunu (13), who hanged himself on Sunday, and also rallied to support his bereaved family, friends and school.

Media spokeswoman for the department, Mbali Thusi, said the matter is receiving priority attention. “We have launched a full investigation to establish exactly what problems he [Sna] may have been having at the school and how the school was dealing with the matter. It is still a bit early to get the full story,” she said.

Thusi said the department early yesterday sent a support team, including officials and counsellors, from the department’s special needs services to Scottsville Primary School where Sna was a pupil.

“They will provide counselling to Sna’s peers and to the staff and try to help them deal with the trauma,” she said.

Counselling was also offered to Sna’s mother, Nolwazi Dlamini, and to his “second family”, Marsha and Harry Steyn, at whose boarding house Sna lived during the week.

The Witness left a message with Scottsville school’s secretary yesterday inviting the principal to put forward the school’s point of view, but he did not respond.

Harry Steyn told The Witness yesterday he and his wife are reluctant to “say too much more” at this stage about the difficulties that Sna allegedly had at school.

“All I can say is that, to our minds, his learning problems were pretty normal and to us they were problems that many children might encounter. For example, he had difficulty with Maths and Afrikaans, but he was Zulu-speaking, so that is quite normal.”

He said he and his wife met with officials from the Education Department yesterday and will prepare a written report detailing their involvment with Sna and any correspondence that passed between them and the school, as well as with Sna’s mother.

Sna’s mother confirmed that Education Department head Cassius Lubisi visited her yesterday morning and later accompanied her and Pastor Vusi Dube (an ANC member of Parliament) to the school where they met with the principal, Bobby Nefdt.

Dlamini said having lost her husband in an accident in 2000, she had work commitments and was not always home to deal with her son’s school work.

“He [Sna] was a child who liked to play and he would dodge his homework, so that is a reason why I took him to live in a boarding house so that he could be assisted and guided in terms of his school work.”

She said Sna was repeating Grade 5 at Scottsville, having transferred there this year from Panorama Primary.

Apart from the problems he reported he was having with his teacher, he was unhappy about having to repeat a class, she ad­ded.

Dlamini said Sna’s funeral is likely to take place on Saturday, but arrangements still have to be finalised once the postmortem has been completed.

SAPS spokeswoman Inspector Joey Jeevan said police have opened an inquest docket and are investigating the circumstances surrouding the boy’s death. “Once our investigation is complete, the docket will be sent to the senior public prosecutor for a decision on whether any person can be held responsible,”she said.

As unlikely as it seems for a child who is only 13 years old to commit suicide, extensive research by experts revealed that suicide among adolescents and children as young as 10 is on the increase.

The Health 24 website reports that Professor Lourens Schlebusch of the Department of Behavioural Medicine at the University of KZN, who conducted research over 25 years, found that suicide is the third most common cause of unnatural deaths in the country.

Nine percent of deaths in young people, especially black youth, was attributable to suicide, he found.

About a third of all hospita­lised attempted suicide patients are children or teens.

Common causes of suicide in these age groups are academic-related problems, including poor school perfor­mance; incest; stress; psychological disorders like depression or interpersonal problems; and family problems.

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