Pupils, teachers struggling to come to terms with Verena tragedy

2017-05-06 20:00
An elderly lady is consoled during the funeral service of sixteen children and a general assistant who passed away in a taxi accident in Verena, Mpumalanga. (Alexy Mitchley, News24)

An elderly lady is consoled during the funeral service of sixteen children and a general assistant who passed away in a taxi accident in Verena, Mpumalanga. (Alexy Mitchley, News24)

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Johannesburg - It's been just under two weeks since the horrific taxi crash in Bronkhorstspruit that claimed the lives of 20 people - most of them pupils - and the school communities at Refano Primary School and Mahlenga Secondary School say they are still reeling from the ordeal.

The incident, which happened on April 26 in Verena, Mpumalanga claimed the lives of 18 pupils and two adults when the taxi they were travelling in crashed into a truck before bursting into flames. The taxi driver and a general worker also died in the incident. Seven pupils were injured and hospitalised. Five have since been discharged. A mass funeral was held on Saturday for 17 people - 16 pupils and the general worker. Another funeral will be held on Sunday for the remaining two pupils. Several mourners, who were inconsolable, collapsed during the funeral on Saturday.

Refano Primary School Principal Lucia Xolo said the school was struggling to come to terms with what had happened. The school lost 14 of its pupils.

Xolo said many of the younger pupils were still confused by the incident while teachers were struggling to cope.

“Most teachers could not teach properly because they are emotional, and the learners are also so emotional that they couldn’t focus,” said Xolo.

Xolo said that since the accident, there had been a very high rate of absenteeism among the pupils as many were still very emotional. Some were scared to use public transport, which was the main mode of transport to and from school.

Xolo said there was hope that things might start getting better, thanks to the counselling and debriefing by social workers and psychologists at the school.

Xolo said it was also especially difficult because the 14 pupils who died were always jovial and cooperative in class and did well in their schooling.

“We wonder why they were taken away from us,” said Xolo.

Mahlenga Secondary School who lost four pupils has also been struggling to cope. Social workers and psychologists have also been at the school every day.

Mahlenga Secondary School principal Christinah Tjiana said the mood of pupils and teachers were clearly visible. Tjiana said they were still hurting from the loss.

Tjiana said students have also been afraid of taking transport since the accident, so much so that one pupil stopped coming to school after the accident. Following counselling at home, he returned on Tuesday.

She added that the support from the district, government and community had been overwhelming.

More than 16 000 mourners attended the funeral which was addressed by the Premier of Mpumalanga, David Mabuza, the basic education minister Angie Motshekga, transport minister Joe Maswanganyi and Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  accidents
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