Flowers were placed against the Rhenish Girls’ High School fence in Stellenbosch on Wednesday as pupils mourned the loss of their 18-year-old peer, understood to have taken her life at the institution on Tuesday. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)
Flowers were placed against the Rhenish Girls’ High School fence in Stellenbosch on Wednesday as pupils mourned the loss of their 18-year-old peer, understood to have taken her life at the institution on Tuesday. Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

Stellenbosch girls’ school rocked by suicide

By Odwa Mkentane Time of article published May 27, 2021

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IN less than a week, another Western Cape school has been rocked by a suicide, this time a Rhenish Girls’ High School matric pupil in Stellenbosch.

The 18-year-old is said to have taken her life on the school premises, leaving the community reeling in shock on Tuesday.

Grieving pupils paid tribute to her by placing flowers on the school’s fence in her memory.

Police spokesperson FC Van Wyk said a death inquest docket case had been registered.

“The circumstances surrounding the death of an 18-year-old learner at a school in Stellenbosch are being investigated following an incident on May 25,” said Van Wyk.

The incident comes after a pupil from Scottsville Primary School in Kraaifontein took her life at the school on May 18.

While attempts to speak to the parents of the pupils yesterday were unsuccessful, WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said senior officials had been at Rhenish Girls’ High School to render support.

“Psychological and counselling support has been provided for Grade 12 learners, which will continue today for any learners or staff that require assistance. The school community is understandably traumatised and shocked by the incident. The WCED is devastated that this is the second incident in the past week. On May 18, another learner took her life at school. It is important to note that learners may commit suicide for any number of reasons,” she said.

Hammond said the WCED had a general psycho-social support strategy, which was adapted especially for use during the Covid-19 period.

“Low-level support includes general classroom-level well-being promotion and psycho-social early intervention support. Moderate-level support includes consultation with psychologists, social workers and counsellors regarding suicide prevention strategies. High-level support includes individual psycho-social support, including referral to the Department of Health for suicidal learners,” she said.

In relation to the Scottsville incident, police spokesperson Andre Traut said the inquest was still under police investigation.

More recent contributing issues could also be the extra strain of the state of the world with the global pandemic and all the added anxiety, stress disruption, adjusted way of life and routine, said South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) operations director Cassey Chambers.

“We know that the biggest contributing factor, or lead cause for suicide, is undiagnosed or untreated depression. It is usually a combination of factors, never just one thing, that may lead to a teen thinking that suicide is the only solution to their problems including relationship problems, family issues, trauma, abuse, bullying, chronic illness and death. These can all be contributing factors.

“It is important for teachers, parents and loved ones to understand that depression is a real illness and can affect children and teens, and it is crucial to know the warning signs and symptoms of depression so that they can get help and support,” said Chambers.

“Unfortunately, suicides in South Africa happen every day and, sadly, adolescents are an at-risk age group for suicide, not only in South Africa but globally, too. We don’t see a particular season or peak period where there are more suicides than other periods of time - there are various reasons or triggers that could cause a teenager to feel depressed or suicidal,’’ she said.

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