Now that I think of her, all I see is her smile, said the teacher of late Duneside Primary School Grade R pupil Lelam Betiwe who was one of the six pupils who died in a horror bakkie crash in May.
The bakkie pupils were travelling in crashed into a bus on AZ Berman Drive, opposite the Liberty Promenade (“Five pupils killed in crash”, Plainsman May 30; “Pupils remembered for smiles and hugs”, Plainsman June 7; and “Horror bakkie crash claims sixth child”, Plainsman July 12).
Duneside Primary School hosted the Lelam Betiwe 5km memorial walk with pupils, staff and her family on Thursday October 26.
The 5km walk at their school represented Lelam’s age. The memorial walk also signified a celebration of her life and also aimed to raise awareness on the pressing issue of scholar transportation, said principal Lee Hoffman.
National Prosecuting Authority Western Cape spokesman Eric Ntabazalila said the driver facing charges of culpable homicide is due to appear in Mitchell’s Plain Magistrate’s court on Wednesday December 1.
Mr Ntabazalila said that the court was awaiting the post-mortem results of the five children who died on the scene. The sixth, a Lentegeur High School pupil, died in hospital over a month later on Thursday July 6 (“Horror bakkie crash claims sixth child” Plainsman July 12).
The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC), a measure of alcohol in the blood as a percentage, report and video footage were still outstanding. The accused driver is out on bail in the matter, said Mr Ntabazalila.
“It’s an abnormal experience to lose a child. In my short career of 17 years in education, it’s the worst thing to lose one of your own in such a gruesome manner. I was emotionally drained as well as the staff when the crash happened. I checked in with her class teacher, who kept saying she didn’t receive an apple from Lelam, which was a daily thing she would do for her teacher,” said Mr Hoffman.
Mr Hoffman would like to see safer roads for all children. “Transport service providers need to put things in place. Children are not cargo or goods. Even after the crash, we still found some drivers dropping pupils a distance from school on street corners, where they would have to walk to school the rest of the way. Our security speaks to them everyday and they get aggressive when you speak to them,” said Mr Hoffman.
Parents should keep parents accountable. “We can’t put costs as a priority over safety. It probably won’t happen immediately but it’s our cry,” he said.
They are hoping to get a minibus for pupils to be transported to school or events safely, he said.
Lelam’s Grade R class teacher, Michelle Eksteen-Heuvel, said she remembers her smile more than anything now.
“The children still speak about her. She had a playful nature and she liked to share. She was kind and the children described her as funny. They miss her,” she said.
“I don’t feel sad, but we should celebrate her life through this commemoration. She didn’t die in vain, we need to do this annually. Even though some children died in a similar manner, things didn’t change. However, we must remember them,” she said.
Lelam’s mom, Momakhaya Betiwe, said with Lelam passing, she thought that would be it but the school and their team has taken the time out to remember her life.
“They called me and said they planned the memorial walk. I am so grateful and appreciate it. Lelam’s teacher always checks in on me. All of you at this school are the ones who make me strong. It was hard but when you realise you’re not alone, things feel better. My family and I appreciate it,” she said.