Cape Town - Mystery still surrounds the death of a Grade 6 Mitchells Plain pupil who collapsed during life orientation on Tuesday.
Her parents said 10-year-old Nande Jentile was healthy and had no heart condition. A post-mortem to establish the cause of death is under way.
On Tuesday afternoon, Nande, a pupil at Khanya Primary School, had joined her classmates for a routine exercise session during life orientation. Teacher Chanray Morta asked the children to jog a short distance to warm up.
“Nande had jogged for less than a hundred metres when she collapsed. Initially I thought she must have tripped. But, when I got to her I could see that all was not well. She was not conscious, but she still had a pulse,” Morta said on Wednesday, adding that the exercise was not extraordinarily intense and that the temperature was mild.
He felt for her pulse, which was there, picked her up and carried her to the staff room.
An ambulance arrived around half an hour later, but by then Nande was dead. Her body was taken to Salt River state mortuary.
Nande’s father, Sakhiwo Jentile, told the Cape Argus that his daughter had been healthy and normal when she left for school on Tuesday. As mourners gathered at the family home in Philippi, he recalled some of his daughter’s traits.
“She was a smart girl. She was young for her year because she was too advanced. When the children played, she always took on the role of a teacher.”
He said she would read books in her spare time.
“When she found out that her mother had been a sprinter in her youth, she too wanted to become an athlete. (On the morning that she died) she was very excited, because she knew that they would be doing exercise and running at school. It is very difficult for us. But, we are Christians and we have the faith to deal with this.”
School principal Linda Mahote also spoke fondly of Nande, as she pointed the girl out on a class photo from last year.
“It is a very difficult time for all of us, because the teachers and pupils all loved her. No one has any idea about how or why this happened,” she said.
Department of Education psychologists were dispatched to the school on Tuesday and Wednesday. They provided counselling support, after the news of the death was formally announced to Nande’s classmates.
Education MEC Donald Grant has extended his condolences to Nande’s friends and family.
The Jentile family are making arrangements to take Nande’s body to her ancestral home of Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape where the funeral will be held.