Writing exams on her deathbed

FAMILY GRIEF: Joyce and Maphike Matima, the parents of Peggy Matima, 16, during a interiew  with Sowetan at their home Atteridgeville, Pretoria. Pic. Antonio Muchave. 23/12/2007. © Sowetan.
FAMILY GRIEF: Joyce and Maphike Matima, the parents of Peggy Matima, 16, during a interiew with Sowetan at their home Atteridgeville, Pretoria. Pic. Antonio Muchave. 23/12/2007. © Sowetan.

Getrude Makhafola

Getrude Makhafola

Peggy Matima carried on writing her matric examinations though she was at death's door.

Too weak to sit straight without being propped up by pillows, she soldiered on enthusiastically, determined to make her mark.

Peggy, an award-winning matric candidate, died last month from a kidney illness.

So determined was she to excel at matric that she would wake up and study though she was bedridden with a painful illness.

Because of her deteriorating condition, "we stopped her from attending classes and decided to give her tuition at home", says her class teacher Ernest Ntuli.

"We also received a concession for her to write her exam in the school's boardroom, where she was supported with pillows because she was so weak."

Ntuli says the Gauteng education department even allowed Peggy to write examinations in hospital when she was at death's door.

"After the containers of exam papers were opened at the examination centre, I had to drive fast to the hospital to give her her paper and she would start writing. She was always confident she would complete the examination and pass with flying colours.

"I will put my head on a block to predict that she would have passed her matric with an exemption," says Ntuli.

The family home in Atteridgeville, Pretoria, is adorned with pictures of Peggy in her school uniform. She was a pupil at the nearby Holy Trinity High School and had planned to study dentistry next year.

One picture shows her in a stunning blue dress, looking like a bride.

"That picture was taken on the evening of her matric dance. She looked more beautiful than ever that night," said her mother Joyce Matima, fighting back the tears welling in her eyes.

"We have not come to terms with Peggy's death," her mother said, barely containing her anguish. "I am not in the mood for the festive cheer. I miss my daughter terribly."

Matima sobs uncontrollably every time she sees a copy of her daughter's favourite magazine at the local supermarket stand.

"She was so intelligent and she loved reading. She would not pass a book without picking it up and reading it," said the 16-year-old Peggy's mother.

Always the youngest in her class, Peggy shone so brightly at school that her teachers bumped her up to the next grade midway through the year.

"Sometimes we feared that her teachers were setting her up for failure, but she proved us wrong and excelled," said her mother.

Her school awarded her two academic prizes last year, for Sepedi and accounting.

Her father walks in as we page through Peggy's school records.

"We were surprised when she told us she was going to write matric as ill as she was," he says.

Maphike Matima took time off work to drive his dying daughter to her final examinations. She was so frail and sickly that the Education Department granted her an extra 15 minutes to settle in to write her papers.

"The teachers were very helpful in trying to make my daughter comfortable while writing the examinations. We thank them for their dedication," said Joyce.

Peggy suffered from Berger's disease, an excruciating condition that leads to kidney failure.

She died at Louis Pasteur Hospital on November 5, the day she was due to write the second paper in physical science and before she could write her biology papers.

"She told us she expected at least three distinctions," said her weeping mother.

Peggy was more than the class brainbox, but also a caring friend.

Lebogang Moabi, a friend since primary school, said Peggy ignored the pain and discomfort of the illness to help her with her studies.

"I am Tsonga and could not grasp Sepedi quickly. She helped me understand and learn Sepedi. I am good at it today because of her," said Moabi.

Her friend got along with everyone and teachers were fond of her because of her dedication.