It’s funny how much more a story hits home when you are able to identify with something about it.
The story about matric pupils from a school in the Bo-Kaap allegedly robbing a private taxi driver did that for me.
I attended Vista High School and some of my happiest and most vivid memories were made at that school over a two-year period.
It was where I met some of the most passionate and memorable teachers of my schooling career, some of whom I remain friends with to this day.
It was by no means the best school in Cape Town, but something about the teaching staff, the small number of students and the culture was very charming to me.
Even the fact that it was such a pain to walk up that hill from the train station every morning, to an unassuming building consisting mostly of prefab structures precariously perched on the mountainside, is a sweet memory to me.
So it pained me a great deal to read about how four teenagers from the school traumatised a driver from Bolt e-hailing service.
Of course I understand that my memories have nothing to do with the current crop of scholars at the school.
I also appreciate that we all filter and romanticise our school days to some extent, viewing the memories through glasses that have been rose-tinted by time.
But no matter how hard I try, I can’t recall any fellow pupil (even the roughest and naughtiest ones) pulling a criminal stunt like this when I was at school there.
The stuff we did back then are positively tame compared to this; kissing behind the trees or bunking school, only to be called out of the Roxy Bioscope by the principal halfway through the triple feature.
Armed robbery of anyone (never mind an adult) is something nobody would’ve given any serious thought.
According to the driver’s account, he drove them from town to Khayelitsha, where they pulled out knives, assaulted him and made off with his phone and wallet.
I can just imagine what must have gone through that man’s mind at that moment.
A hard-working father of two, trying to earn an honest living, and knowing how cheap life has become, especially in his industry.
Here’s where the story becomes even more infuriating. When the boys were confronted at school, the man’s phone was found and some of them still had knives on them.
I understand that certain neighbourhoods are tough these days and hormonally-charged kids may feel that they need weapons to protect themselves, but there’s got to be a better solution than this.
And I don’t know what to make of the fact that the boys’ parents are pressuring the man to drop the charges against them.
It therefore comes as no surprise that a few days later, we went from assault to cold-blooded murder, when a teacher was gunned down while sitting in his car, outside his school in Mitchells Plain.
And if witness accounts are to be believed, then it may well have been a pupil from the Heinz Park Primary School who was responsible.
A witness saw one of the shooters fleeing in what looked like grey school pants, after the Grade 6 teacher – Mr Thulani Manqoyi – was shot dead.
An innocent father of three, who dedicated his life to educating our children and who by at least one account was kind and passionate, was murdered in broad daylight, and his young charges had to witness his lifeless body being removed.
So many lives ruined by one act of violence! There’s the teacher’s wife and children, who have lost a husband and a father for no good reason.
There’s the fellow teachers who have lost a colleague and had their confidence shaken, because they don’t know why.
Was it because he reprimanded a student in class, and if so, how do they continue teaching with that knowledge?
Then there’s the children who are already traumatised on an ongoing basis by a violent environment, which has now followed them into what is meant to be a safe space.
This is where they were supposed to be able to escape the realities of their existence and dream of a better future, free of trauma caused by violence beyond their control.
And the rest of us carry on as if it’s just another day. It isn’t! Something is seriously wrong with our society.