Honour to heartbreak: Enoch was full of promise, says teacher

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Honour to heartbreak: Enoch was full of promise, says teacher

Family and ex-teacher express praise and grief for the drowned teen at Parktown Boys’ High memorial

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Enoch Mpianzi’s mother, Anto, becomes emotional at her son's memorial service at Parktown Boys' High.
Overcome Enoch Mpianzi’s mother, Anto, becomes emotional at her son's memorial service at Parktown Boys' High.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

Despite the school’s reputation being marred by scandal after scandal, walking into the grounds of the Parktown Boys’ High School, where pupils greeted guests with  “afternoon ma’am’ and sir”, it was easy to see why Enoch Mpianzi’s primary school teacher had seen it as an honour for him to have been accepted there.

The boys from the school looked regal as some of them walked to the front of the school hall and blasted on their brass instruments, creating a guard of honour for Enoch’s grieving mother, Anto, as she walked out of the school hall following his memorial service.

This was the very music Enoch would have walked to, the same path he would have followed, in 2024 during the school’s annual ceremony where the matrics are bidden farewell.

Mapule Modipa-Xaba, a teacher at Brixton Primary School, said they were all very impressed that at least one pupil from their quintile 1 school had been accepted to the prestigious boys’ school, a quintile 5.

Quintile 1 schools were regarded as the poorest and quintile 5 the least poor public schools.

“It was an honour. We had hoped that one day our school would be in the news [because of Enoch’s achievements] but we did not know that we would be in the news this way,” she said at her former pupil’s memorial service at Parktown Boys’ High on Tuesday.

It has been almost two weeks since Enoch, 13, died on his first day of high school. He is believed to have drowned after experiencing difficulty at the Grade 8 orientation camp, at a lodge in Brits in North West. His disappearance was only officially noted the following day when a search began. His body was found at a dam that spills into the Crocodile River, almost 48 hours after he went missing.

A distraught Modipa-Xaba said: “Enoch went to camp pulling his bag. He came back in a body bag.”

We had hoped that one day our school would be in the news because of Mpianzi’s achievements but we did not know that we would be in the news this way.

Before her, speaker after speaker, including Enoch’s uncle, Sebastian Kodiemoka, told mourners they had come to accept his death as the will of God.

Modipa-Xaba, however, preached a different gospel.

“I am Christian but I don’t know how to say ‘it is well’. It is not,” she said, fighting back tears. 

She recalled that when Enoch joined Brixton Primary, the pupil, who is originally from the northern Democratic Republic of the Congo, did not even speak English, but he excelled throughout the year, mastering mathematics, science and chess.

“It is truly heartbreaking to lose a child like Enoch,” she said.

The silence from Parktown Boys’ High officials at the memorial was deafening, since they they did not feature at all in the programme.

Questions have been raised about whether there was negligence on the part of staff who supervised at the camp and failed to immediately notice that Enoch was missing.

The school brass band prepares to perform their traditional send-off, 'Last of the Mohicans', during the memorial service for Enoch Mpianzi at Parktown Boys' High.
Farewell The school brass band prepares to perform their traditional send-off, 'Last of the Mohicans', during the memorial service for Enoch Mpianzi at Parktown Boys' High.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

The suspension of the school principal was announced last week by Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, who said someone had to account for how the teen’s disappearance went unnoticed for so long.

Delivering the sermon, Rev Trevor Slade compared Enoch to his biblical namesake.

He said the Enoch of the Bible did not die but instead was taken up, or ascended, to heaven to be with God. Such was the case with Mpianzi, he said.

Enoch’s uncle, Kodiemoka, said the knowledge of his prophetic name gave them comfort as a family as they believed that Enoch was with God.

Enoch’s brothers, Steve, Mordecai and Shadrack, also addressed mourners, describing their youngest sibling as a shy, young and intelligent man.

“He ran and finished his race according to the will of God,” they said, standing side by side on stage.

“His race was not as long as we expected ... but from dust we came, to dust we will return. Enoch is no more.”

The brothers said they hoped his death would ensure life for other children around the country.

Enoch will be buried on Saturday.