Dale College still ‘raw’ after two deaths rock the school
The deaths of two pupils in the space of a week have sent shockwaves through Dale College in Qonce, but the school and community have rallied in support.
A second death in the space of a week has rocked prestigious Eastern Cape boys’ school, Dale College Boys’ High School. 18-year-old first-team rugby player Liyabona Teyise suffered a head injury in a derby match against Port Rex Technical High School on Saturday 9 April.
Teyise was rushed to Frere Provincial Hospital in East London where he was assessed with a CT scan which showed extensive bleeding on the brain. Teyise passed away overnight on Saturday.
Dale College headmaster Garth Shaw was at the field at the time of the incident, which occurred just before half-time.
“The collision was very innocent in how it was. As rugby collisions go, it wasn’t a big impact collision. I think it was a freak accident,” Shaw told Daily Maverick.
“It was a backline move running. The Port Rex defence on the retreat and Liyabona burst through between two tacklers and managed to pass the ball while in the tackle… a cross cover defender was coming across and there must have been a knee or a boot by accident to the side of his head. That’s how this kind of an accident and the bleeding on the brain must have happened.”
Teyise, who played at lock forward position, walked off the field himself after the collision and was provided with oxygen by the medics on duty when they noticed he was struggling to breathe.
“The medics on the side of the field were very well drilled and led by somebody who works with Port Rex’s sports team. They were impressive, and able to provide him with oxygen when they saw he was battling to breathe… He was well supported until the ambulance arrived,” said Shaw.
Teyise was the chairperson of the Representative Council of Learners at Dale College and is remembered as a “well mannered, disciplined, focused and hardworking gentleman,” according to one of Teyise’s teachers.
This is the second misfortune to occur at Dale College in the space of a week as another first-team rugby player, 17-year-old Lisakhanya Lwana was found dead on Tuesday, having been missing since last Saturday.
Lwana’s body was found on the R63 between Qonce and Masingata on Sunday. Police reports indicate he sustained multiple injuries as they suspect he was a victim of a hit-and-run accident.
“We have a memorial service planned for Lisakhanya’s passing and that was planned since last week. We wondered if we should postpone that with the rawness of Liyabona’s passing but we’re going to continue with that and then probably later this week we’ll have a similar memorial service for Liyabona,” said Shaw.
The mental well-being of the learners at the school is the main priority at the moment, according to Shaw.
“It’s been really raw and challenging to deal with and a lot of emotions are coming out. [Monday] we’ll have various groups of counselling support and our school counsellor will meet with all those who are volunteering at 8am and then we’ll have counselling sessions for various groups in small groups… We just feel that that is necessary just to process everything that’s going on. So that’s how we’re responding to it in terms of the learners,” said the headmaster.
There has been a rally of support and care shown by people within and outside the Qonce community, where Dale College is situated.
“From the governing body, education department, lots of messages of encouragement from parents, requests to come and pray for the school. As sad as it is to see this, what’s carried me through — and I think many others as well, is just the support from the community,” said Shaw.
“In terms of how the community has rallied together, it’s really been encouraging, just so much support coming out from everyone.”
Shortage of ambulances
Despite the first aid and medics on the side of the field at Port Rex High handling Teyise’s lack of breathing and fits well, Shaw believes changes need to be made in the future structuring of rugby derbies in East London.
“There was a shortage of ambulances. I think there’s something to be learned out of this. One thing that is apparent is that we should not have four derby days happening in East London at the same time,” said Shaw.
Four schools were competing against each other, on top of normal trauma [for the ambulances] and we had to wait quite a while for the ambulance and I believe that was the theme around East London which is an important lesson for us to learn to not have all of them at the same time when there are other times when they could be hosting derby days like this.”
Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby, expressed his condolences to Teyise’s family, friends and teammates.
“We received the devastating news of Liyabona’s passing on Sunday and on behalf of the entire South African rugby community I would like to pay my respects to a bright young kid who lost his life too soon,” he said.
“Any death related to the game we all love so much is one too many and our thoughts and prayers are with Liyabona’s family, friends and teammates during this very difficult time, especially as the school lost another learner during the week, not due to rugby.
“By all accounts, Liyabona was a wonderful young man with a bright future ahead of him. Our most sincere condolences to everyone who knew him, from his family and the school, during this time of grief. To lose someone so young is nothing but tragic.”
Alexander said early reports indicate that all the necessary medical protocols had been observed both at the match venue and in the hospital.
“Unfortunate events such as this one remind us how important it is to ensure that there are always proper medical support and facilities in place at matches, and that coaches and match officials are trained to deal with such injury situations appropriately,” he said.
Alexander said SA Rugby had in place a science-based injury prevention programme called BokSmart which had been highly successful in reducing catastrophic injury incidence in rugby in South Africa for more than a decade. He emphasised that it was therefore critical that all referees and coaches were properly affiliated to SA Rugby and certified on the BokSmart programme. DM