‘Intolerance caused Nako’s death’

Johannesburg- Tensions were high on Friday at the memorial service of 16-year-old Bhisho high school pupil Lathitha Nako.

The tensions had been ongoing throughout the week amid divisions within the school and the community after Nako took her life, allegedly a result of being bullied at school due to her spiritual calling as a sangoma.

Her death has caused ructions within the community, with some members of the community agitated by the dominance of Christianity and describing it as a tool to suppress other religions, especially African spirituality.

These ructions played themselves out during the memorial service when a group of traditional healers who were not included in the programme disrupted it with singing, drum beating and dancing.

During the memorial service, speakers called for calm and for reflection on the lessons learned from the tragedy in order to help guide the education system and communities to tolerate different beliefs.

Reports of Nako’s suicide surfaced over the past weekend, with claims emerging she was bullied by two teachers and pupils who did not share her belief

It is not yet clear how she took her life as the results of an autopsy have yet to be released.

Voice notes circulating in social media alleged that Nako was ridiculed by several pupils and teachers who did not understand her spiritual gift and called her a witch.

It is also alleged that one of her teachers tried to impose Christianity on her.

In a voice note that has been circulating, Nako tells a friend that she feels overwhelmed because some of the pupils she had interacted with about her spiritual vision and what it had revealed to her about them had reported her to their parents and a parents’ meeting had been called to deal with the matter.

She speaks about her fears of being expelled from the school and not being able to continue schooling because other schools will require a letter from Bhisho High School and if they were to see the letter they would not want to be associated with her.

In another voice note, Nako speaks about a teacher who humiliated her in front of the class and said she was a disgrace after she failed an exam because of what she was going through.

She says she is tired of fighting and wants to rest in peace.

The Eastern Cape department of education said two teachers have been placed on precautionary suspension for their alleged role in this bullying incident. The department has also commissioned an investigation.

“We have completed the internal part of the report, but we need the family side to understand the fully-fledged complexity of this matter,” education MEC Fundile Gade said.

During Nako’s memorial service, her classmates said they had lost a friend who used to leave them mesmerised.

Speaking on behalf of her classmates, Banele Marhonga, said: “Whenever it came to Xhosa and English orals she was outstanding.”

She said pupils take their own lives due to a lack of involvement by parents and teachers in their lives. Marhonga said: “Bullying is a disease that spreads and does affect not only the bullied but also bystanders.”

Head of Eastern Cape education Dr Naledi Mbude said Nako’s death was a lesson for all societies.

Mbude said: “This must serve as a lesson not just for Eastern Cape but for the entire country. For every child, there’s a teacher and there’s family. We must examine ourselves without pointing fingers and take out lessons from this.”

But traditional healers said they are treated like outcasts by society.

Vuyiswa Gxidolo said some in the society regarding those with spiritual callings as being mentally disturbed.

“Many people reject us, they don’t even want to understand what we are going through. Most of the time it’s the families and people that are very close to us who have turned against us,” said Gxidolo.

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