A remarkable act of courage by Jody van Leeve, 16, of Muizenberg High School, saved his classmate from a savage attack by a man and his two dogs.
Widaad Sadan, 16, was just outside the school grounds last week Wednesday at 2.50pm.
She’d been waiting with the security guard for her mom to fetch her, when she decided to rather wait inside the school. She took out her phone to update her mom as to where she would be.
“As I was talking to her, I noticed a man walking two big dogs – one looked like a Boerboel. I tried to move out of their way because I am scared of dogs, but he came towards me and said ‘Girly give me your phone’,” Widaad said.
The teen said her first reaction was one of surprise – and she didn’t immediately feel threatened. But she did try to side-step them and run away, just in case he was serious. She also had the presence of mind to throw her school bag over the fence, back into the school grounds.
The man was serious, and her quick thinking angered him. Unluckily Widaad tripped on a tree root as she made to dash away, and fell flat on the ground, winded.
The man grabbed her from behind and lifted her off her feet, grappling for her phone.
“While we fought the dogs were just standing there,” she said.
She said she only became aware that she was screaming when they toppled to the ground and her face was pressed against the grass during their struggle.
Moments earlier Widaad’s baby brother had taken the phone from her mother, to talk to her. Now, all he heard was her desperate screaming.
It was these same screams that alerted Jody Van Leevej to her peril. From inside the school, he broke into a run and headed towards Widaad.
Widaad said she suddenly realised that she had to get the phone away from her, and mid-attack she somehow managed to fling the phone away – hoping the man would simply follow the phone. She threw wildly – and the phone arced over the fence – and landed inside the school property.
“This made him really angry and he picked me up and let the dogs loose on me,” Widaad said. She assumes the dogs are well trained because before, they had been passive, but when released, they attacked her immediately.
One bit a chunk of flesh out of her shin – the wound is deep and could not be stitched because there was no skin surrounding it. “I have tooth marks all down both of my legs, especially my thighs,” she said.
That morning Widaad had pulled on a pair of tights, and because of them, the dog’s teeth couldn’t gain proper purchase.
Her injuries would have been so much worse if not for Jody, she says.
However, her dad, Abdul Samad Sadan, said she may well have lost her life in the incident, if not for Jody.
“If those dogs had gotten her throat” he said, shaking his head. In a meeting with the school and the False Bay Echo, he voiced a heartfelt thanks to Jody for saving his little girl’s life.
Jody’s reaction on the day of the attack was instantaneous. He told the False Bay Echo that he didn’t even think about the fact that he was putting himself in gravedanger: all he saw was Widaad being attacked and he ran to her aid.
“I saw this man and he was choking Widaad, then he set his dogs on her – it all happened so fast. I just knew I had to stop it,” Jody said.
His sudden appearance during the attack caught the man off guard and distracted the dogs. Jody screamed at Widaad to get over the fence (into the safety of the school) and ran at the man.
“He actually jumped over the fence into the school. There were some other girls there and they screamed that he was coming for Widaad and then ran away. So I jumped back over the fence to chase him, but he just went to go get her phone. Then I noticed Widaad’s school bag and I grabbed that – he saw I had it, so he jumped back over the fence to his dogs, and he ran to a car that was waiting,” Jody said.
The man opened the door for the dogs and then leapt into the car himself – then the driver sped off.
Jody described the man as dark of complexion, wearing jeans, a brown shirt and Nike takkies.
Sure that the attacker and dogs were gone, Jody ran back to find Widaad and the two bashed on doors, yelling help. Jody stayed with Widaad while staff at the school called for her parents and the police and tended her wounds as best they could.
“It was like a scene from ER in here, everyone here just mobilised,” said principal Leonie Jacobsen.
Ms Jacobsen praisd Jody’s actions. “It is so special for a teenager to respond like this, in a society with no empathy,” she said.
On Friday April 28 the school hosted a special assembly for Jody. His parents, grandmother, Widaad and her family were there to witness the occasion and Jody was presented with a certificate of bravery from SAPS
and a gift basket to Jody.
“This is the citizenship that Muizenberg High wants to produce, and he exemplified that in his actions,” Mrs Jacobsen said. “I spoke to the assembly about the fact that there is no greater love than the one who lays down his life for another. We looked at Nelson Mandela’s words on bravery and to Martin Luther King’s words. He said that if it was vanity, it would ask, is this popular to do. But if it was true courage, it would ask: Is this the right thing to do,” she said.
Ms Jacobsen asked how the incident has affected Jody – whom she describes as having been a typical teen up until this point, having been naughty and sent out of class.
This is pertinent, and very hopeful, she says, because it means that everyone has the capacity to do something powerfully good, not just some people: everyone.
“This changed me, because before, I could be naughty or just be normal. Now I realise that if I do anything wrong now, it will undo the good I have just done, and I don’t want that. I feel like, as much as I did what I did just for Widaad, I have also ended up changing my own life for the better,” Jody said.
The effect of this incident has already sent ripples throughout the school. Ms Jacobsen said: “I believe that leadership has to be inspirational. And Jody’s actions have shown him to be the leader he is, by good example,” she said.
A Grade 8 boy at the school approached her directly after the assembly on Friday. He waited patiently until all the families had been bid farewell – and then he asked the pertinent question that brought tears to her eyes, again.
He told her: “I want to be like that boy. What do you need? Do you need me to work on something, is there anything I can do to help, where can I be, what can I do?”
Ms Jacobsen directly attributes this to Jody’s actions. Another spin-off was an older boy who brought a younger boy into the office to speak up for him because the younger one was being targeted by other kids taking his money from him. He wanted to speak out and put an end to that.
“And right there, Jody’s deed became bigger than him. Because now, its cool to do good. That’s powerful. That is also what Jody has done,” she said.