Pretoria - From having lies spread about them, to being forced to do things against their will.

Of the Grade 4 pupils surveyed in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls), just over half of the South African participants said they were bullied weekly.

The research, released by the University of Pretoria on Tuesday, confirmed growing evidence that school bullying was on the rise, and had a negative impact on how well pupils did.

University of Stellenbosch economist Nicholas Spaull said that “ominously”, 41 percent of Grade 9 principals reported “moderate problems” with school discipline and safety – the third-highest prevalence behind Syria (70 percent reported moderate problems) and Tunisia (60 percent).

A third (33 percent) of local Grade 9 pupils were reported to have been bullied about weekly.

Pirls, which tests the reading comprehension of Grade 4 pupils, was released at the same time as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timms), by the Human Sciences Research Council.

It showed that globally the spike in how often pupils were bullied was related to a decrease in the average maths and science scores. - The Mercury