Teen commits suicide over failure to obtain ID, birth certificate
Gauteng - Faced with not being able to matriculate because she didn't have a birth certificate or ID, a Gauteng teen chose death instead.
Brenda Sithole, 17, a Grade 11 pupil at Thutopele Secondary School, committed suicide last week after she was allegedly told she would be "chased away" from school because her registration had not been completed.
In a note she left for her family on her bed, she wrote that she felt she didn't feel like she belonged because there is no record of her existence.
The letter was cut into the shape of a heart.
It read: "Am sorry. I do not mean to hurt anyone. Am sorry. I had loved and respected you all. I give my best to everyone but I felt like I did not belong here with you. I am only an embarrassment to you my family. I did not have a future even [though] I had big dreams that I wanted to see them come true but that was not going to happen because I was going to go to be kicked out of school because I did not have the rights like having an ID to show where I belong. I was just a normal person living my life at the [mercy] of God but yet that didn't pay up. Am just useless."
Search for mother
Her aunt and guardian, Terry Sithole, said she was heartbroken at the death of her "baby girl".
She has three sons of her own, and had - along with her maternal grandmother - been taking care of Brenda after her mother left her with family to go and live with a boyfriend.
They only later discovered that the young Brenda had never been registered and attempts by Terry to get the child she considered her own a birth certificate, were turned down as officials explained that her biological mother had to be present.
"When she was old enough to get an ID, we tried to find her mother. It took us a long time to find out where she had been staying. When earlier this year we found the man she had been with, he told us she had died, giving us her ID and death certificate," Terry said.
Plans to deal with registering Brenda's birth was put on hold this month after the death of Terry's father.
"When school opened last Monday, she was told that the school wanted a birth certificate by the next day or she shouldn't come back," Terry recalled.
National Association of Parents in School Governance's general secretary Marks Ramasike said he understood that the school had requested that pupils bring their birth certificates or identity documents for registration purposes as a number of them were not formally registered.
This, he explained, meant that budget allocations are only made for those who are officially on the school's roll.
The provincial education department requested that those not yet fully registered bring their IDs or birth certificates by July 28.
"One of the teachers told the learners that if they didn't [bring their documents] they shouldn't come back to school. How can they chase the children away?" Ramasike asked.
Terry said she encouraged Brenda to return to school the following day and that she would go and make necessary arrangements with officials to explain the situation.
"She went to school on Tuesday and when she came home she was happy and didn't say anything about the birth certificate. I saw her that night at my mother's house, where she was pleasant and cooking. I didn't know she had already decided to [commit suicide]."
Terry's mother phoned her at 01:00 the following morning. Brenda had been admitted to hospital and was "not fine".
"When I got there I found out she had already passed away. She had taken rat poison she had bought at the mall on Tuesday when she had been there with her friends after school."
Terry said her niece's death has left her heartbroken and in search of answers.
"The school denied threatening her. I don't know. If they did, the approach was not right. If they had gone about it the right way, she wouldn't have felt she needed to do this," she insisted.
Inquest docket opened
An inquest docket was opened following Brenda's death. The case number allowed the Sitholes to be able to complete the relevant processes to confirm her life and death.
The teenager did not have funeral cover and the family is arranging a proper send off for the girl who once dreamed of studying to become a hydrologist.
"She was clever. She always did her schoolwork and loved to write, especially letters. She was excited to be in matric next year," Terry recalled.
Gauteng education department spokesperson Steve Mabona said they were aware of the "unfortunate incident".
"There is currently an investigation underway. [The department] will be guided on the way forward once there is an outcome," he said.
Terry said the department had the responsibility to deal with the matter.
"There are lots of kids with the same situation. If they are going to be chased out of school, they are going to [end up] smoking nyaope on the street."