Pretoria - Two pupils – a boy and a girl – have been arrested in connection with constant bullying of their schoolmate.
“The boy and girl were arrested yesterday (Wednesday). They were charged and released back into their parents’ care with a warning to appear in court,” police spokeswoman Wanda Oliver said, confirming that a case of assault was being investigated.
On Monday afternoon, Meri Janse van Vuuren was allegedly pushed up against a wall and held by the throat by a boy from her school while two schoolgirls scratched and punched her.
On Wednesday, the redhead schoolgirl was subjected to further assault after the same boy waited for her at the school gate. He hit her with a school bag and she fell to the ground, shaking with fear.
Later, the girl – who had allegedly been tormenting her for three years – allegedly attacked Meri again, pushing her down a flight of stairs at school after recess.
The traumatised and fearful Hoërskool Wonderboom Grade 10 pupil says she will rely on the protection of her friends to shield her from further assault and victimisation by the two apparent school bullies.
Her alleged attackers live in her neighbourhood.
Meri has allegedly been cautioned by the principal not to return to school for the rest of the week – a move her father says is outrageous.
“My daughter is the one with bruises and scratches on her arms and an injured leg. She is the one being attacked, sworn at and bullied. Yet the school says she must stay out of school for the week until the situation is calmer. What nonsense is that?” asked Koos Janse van Vuuren.
He said he would send his daughter to school, “so as not to make her attackers believe that their actions are condoned”.
“Her attackers are the ones who have done wrong; they should bear the consequences, not my child,” he said.
Meri said she would return to school as her friends had promised to protect her.
The girl spoke to the Pretoria News on Wednesday about the years of bullying, harassment and physical attacks by the schoolgirl.
Her mother, Frieda, said she constantly instilled it in her daughter’s mind and in those of her other children that they were not victims, but survivors. “I tell them to keep their heads up because they have nothing to be ashamed of. They have done nothing wrong,” Frieda said.
Previous cases had been opened at various police stations against her daughter’s abusers, she added.
“Nothing ever comes of it. It will be quiet for six months and then start again. We’ve had enough. This is really having a terrible effect on my daughter’s well-being. It is also affecting her academically.”
The family opened another case on Monday afternoon, after the attack, and again on Wednesday.
The Janse van Vuuren family are hopeful that the arrests will end their daughter’s “hell”.
“We have tried going to speak to the girl’s parents, but it’s a waste of time. They have an attitude that their child did nothing wrong – every time. We can only hope the law will take its course and the school will implement measures to solve this problem,” Koos said.
According to Sheila du Plessis, an author of parenting books, one cannot reason with bullies, and parents have to acknowledge the problem. “Parents need to stop denying this problem. They need to take a stand and not accept it when nothing is done. You cannot reason with bullies. They are probably hurting from other circumstances and learn to be tough so others can also not hurt them,” she said.
“Bullies are clever, they provoke a person and then play innocent. Bullies are cowards because they play the role of innocence so well.”
Parents should meet and discuss the problems, she said, but involve schools and police when necessary.