Tragic legacy of schoolgirl bullying
● While the family of grade 10 pupil Lufuno Mavhunga dealt with losing their bullied child to suicide, the family of her alleged attacker watched as the 14-yearold appeared in court.
The assault on Mavhunga, in which she was repeatedly slapped across the face, happened on the grounds of Mbilwi Secondary School in Limpopo, and footage appeared on social media.
The girl suspected of the assault appeared in court on Friday as Mavhunga’s family and friends attended a memorial service.
Police told the Sunday Times the girl’s family handed her over to the police on Wednesday morning. This was two days after Mavhunga told her parents and elder brother about the attack, then locked herself in her room and took an overdose. She was found dead by her mother.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said the alleged assailant was in custody at a youth centre after a preliminary inquiry on Friday with her parents, her attorney, the prosecution team, the police and a probation officer.
“They met to talk to the child about her circumstances, her family and the factors which may have led her to commit the crime,” said NPA spokesperson Mashudu Malabi-Dzhangi.
“The objective is to determine whether the child can be diverted or provide the prosecutor with an opportunity to decide whether the case should proceed to trial.”
The teenager, who faces a charge of assault, will return to Thohoyandou magistrate’s court on Tuesday, when a bail application will be heard in camera because she is a minor.
Other pupils who allegedly encouraged the fighting have been given a seven-day suspension from the school in the town of Sibasa.
Mbilwi Secondary consistently features on the list of Limpopo’s best-performing schools but now it is the focus of an intense bullying investigation, and basic education minister Angie Motshekga said teachers will be held accountable if it is found they did not act appropriately.
“With the results [the school achieves], you would expect that there would be more discipline and more control,” she said.
“The province, district and sector are best placed to deal with it so we will await their report, and on the basis of their report see if there are gaps where we can support, or things we could have done better.”
At Friday’s memorial service, Lufuno’s brother Kenneth Mavhunga said parents needed to take responsibility for their children’s behaviour.
“I know I am not qualified to tell you about parenting, but what I know, and what I have seen in that video, is that there was someone’s child that was assaulting my sister,” he said.
“I do believe that child comes from a certain family and there are parents in that family. That is why I am bringing it back to you, that maybe it is high time we understand our children and make sure we are involved in raising them.”
Clinical psychologist Clementine Dlamini said the attack would also leave the alleged aggressor with scars. “As an adolescent she is at an age where her identity as an individual is still developing,” she said.
“This incident will shape how she views herself, and she is at risk of developing a negative or poor selfimage of herself. She is also likely to struggle with self-esteem-related issues.
“She is likely to develop psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and severe stress as a result of not only the incident but everything else that has happened before and after the assault.”
The Mavhunga family said it wanted to see justice done.
Maybe it is time we stand as parents and take up our responsibility in our respective homes
Brother of the deceased girl, Lufuno