Johannesburg - Sizwe Kubheka and his classmates were apparently making noise while discussing a textbook during a lesson at their school in Palm Springs.
This allegedly infuriated their Tharabollo Secondary School teacher, who allegedly hit the Grade 10 pupil with a belt.
The pupil died last Tuesday at Sebokeng Hospital, a week after he had received the alleged beating on Monday, March 17.
Sizwe’s mother, Maria Kubheka, said her son had returned from school complaining about a headache.
“I simply told him to take headache tablets. But the pain got worse and he failed to report to school the whole week. He had also lost his appetite as the days went by,” she said.
His family said attempts to meet doctors were thwarted by their inability to organise transport, or when they arrived at the hospital, the doctors were not there.
“My boy was deaf just before he died. He couldn’t even hear or see us when we spoke with him at his bedside. His left eye was swollen and wide open. He couldn’t even blink the eye. The last time I saw him, hours before he died, he had blood clots coming out through his mouth and nose,” said the distraught mother.
His family said they were still waiting for post-mortem results to have a clear indication on what had caused the death of their first-born child.
Evaton police spokesman Constable Tshishiwa Mitileni said the teacher, whose name is known to The Star, was arrested and had appeared at the Sebokeng Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.
Mitileni said the teacher was released on a warning, pending investigations.
He said the teacher was initially arrested for grievous bodily harm.
“Later on, it was discovered that the child had died. However, investigating officers have requested the body be taken to a government mortuary to conduct a post-mortem. We are currently waiting for results. If the results indicate that the cause of death was due to assault injuries, then the charge will change to murder,” said Mitileni.
On Tuesday, SA Democratic Teachers Union spokeswoman Nomusa Cembi said: “We are against corporal punishment in school. Corporal punishment has been banned a long time ago. Our request to the government is to train teachers in alternative methods of disciplining pupils apart from corporal punishment.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the Kubheka family were still struggling to make funeral arrangements for their son.
Sizwe’s mother and his father, Mafika Dibinkonzo, are unemployed. The family depend on three social grants to survive.
The parents said the school had promised to assist with the funeral.
This was Sizwe’s first year at Tharabollo after he took a year off his schooling in the middle of last year.
Maria said she was now worried about her second-born, who is a pupil at the same school.
“I am afraid this might affect her badly, especially when they go back to school next week. The situation has troubled her a lot. She’s is now all by herself at the school. No one knows how she is feeling or what will happen when she sees the teacher at school,” she said.
Gauteng Department of Education spokeswoman Phumla Sekhonyane said the department had served the teacher with a notice of transfer to the district offices pending an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the pupil’s hospitalisation.
“He will not report back at the school when schools reopen.”