Raymond Jaravaza, Showbiz Correspondent
NO parent should have to bury their child. Having to do so leaves an emotional and psychological scar that never heals.
The words of an expert in the field of psychology at a local university might have come a little too late for the parents of a teenager from Bulawayo’s Northend suburb who hanged himself in his bedroom last year after collecting his Advanced Level results.
The heart-rending story of how Makhosi Dumoluhle Mbano, 19 at the time of his death, ended his life when his family members were away, left the community shell-shocked. His lifeless body was found hanging from roof trusses by his stepfather, Pieter Cloette.
A young life cut short, leaving so many unanswered questions as to why a seemingly happy young man could do the unthinkable and end his life, leaving his family and friends with emotional scars that no amount of time and counseling will ever fully heal.
It’s that time of the year when schools have just closed and students are bringing home their school reports, with some excelling in their studies while the not so fortunate fail dismally and the prospects of facing their parents with poor marks weighing down on the shoulders of scholars.
Mbano’s suicide is not an isolated case and Dr Printah Nkala of the Psychology and Counselling Department at the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) says every parent must do some introspection to find out if their expectations are not pushing their kids to the edge.
“Youngsters usually resort to suicide as a result of failure to handle situations created by adults, especially very high expectations to do well at school, leaving a child depressed when he or she fails to meet those expectations.
“Of course, no parent will deliberately push their child to suicide, but it’s important to evaluate ourselves to see if we are providing a stable, safe physical and emotional home environment. No parent should have to bury their child, especially because the child ended their own life,” Dr Nkala said.
The psychology expert says he is baffled by conclusions made by society that suicide victims were always to blame for ultimately taking their own life.
“It’s very laughable when people blame the victim for committing suicide instead of looking at themselves in the mirror and asking what they would have done to assist, if possible, the deceased,” he said.
In 2017, an Upper Sixth pupil from Sizane High School in Bulawayo allegedly tried in vain to commit suicide twice after she was caught cheating in a Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) Biology Paper 3 examination.
Prisca Bhebhe, mother of a 17-year-old boy who sat his Ordinary Level examinations this year, says that she tries her best to build a good relationship with the teenager.
“We don’t have the perfect mother and son relationship as there are the isolated arguments, but I try to spend time with him and understand his points of view.
“Teenagers complain that as parents, we are keen to give advice, but we don’t listen to their views so I think it’s important that we also take time to listen to our kids and understand how they feel about certain things instead of imposing our ideas on them,” Bhebhe said.
She advised parents to draw a line between being supportive and being intrusive.
“Teenagers will generally talk to us parents when they are ready, be it problems at school or with friends. I want my son to excel at school, but putting too much pressure on him will only push him to the edge and who knows what goes through his mind when he performs below my expectations.
“I read that story about the boy who hanged himself after failing his A-Level exams and it got me thinking that it could be anyone’s child committing suicide because he or she feels that they have let their parents down,” she said.
While Bhebhe’s approach towards her son looks more measured, Mlungisi Sibindi, a commuter omnibus driver, says he does not treat his children with kid gloves for fear that they will commit suicide.
“I’m not educated and certainly will not want to see my children driving kombis for a living so I will push them to work hard at school. Spare the rod and spoil the child they say, so if it means being labelled a very strict parent, I do not mind at all.
“Both my children know that I expect nothing short of good results at school. Why would a child commit suicide? That is the work of the devil,” said Sibindi. — @RaymondJaravaza