Strategies to curb bullying in schools
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THE South African Women Lawyers’ Association (Sawla) has committed itself to assist schools and communities with legal advice when they develop any strategy intended to curb the scourge of bullyism.
“As Sawla, we condemn all forms of bullying, discrimination and abuse of any kind,” said the association’s secretary-general, Mpho Kgabi.
The organisation said bullyism was a criminal offence taking different forms, including harassment, name-calling, threats of any kind and physical assault. It added that bullyism, by its nature, was an infringement of a person's right to dignity, freedom and security, privacy and equality.
Sawla called for all schools to address bullying by ensuring that anti-bullying strategies, including policies, awareness campaigns and psychosocial support, are developed and independently audited.
“It is imperative for parent and teachers to collaboratively work together in the fight against bullying by openly discussing issues of bullying, and schools should not disregard ’minor’ complaints and should create a safe environment in which learners feel free to report bullying without fear of judgment, humiliation and discrimination.
“Parents and guardians should not only be concerned when their children are bullied but also when they are bullies. We also condemn the cyberbullying that perpetrators of bullying face on social media spaces and encourage communities to not perpetuate the cycle of bullying as this can lead to adverse consequences. Rather give support to both the victim and the bully, minors in most cases.
“We should continuously monitor how our children treat others and encourage them to report bullyism of any form,” Kgabi added.
Thari, a programme which is implemented and run through Adopt a School, a partner entity of the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation, is also spotlighting bullying this week.
The organisation said the recent suicide of a learner in Limpopo following an act of bullying has brought to light the problem of learner-on-learner violence in schools.
Learner-on-learner violence includes assault, gangsterism, rape and initiation.
According to SAPS crime statistics, nine murders and 19 attempted murders were recorded between April 2019 and March 2020 due to bullying in schools. The statistics further showed that 345 cases of assault intended to cause grievous bodily harm and 546 common assault cases were opened due to bullying in schools.
“These statistics are concerning,” programme manager for the Thari programme, Bernice Maponyane, said.
“It is widely recognised that a child’s ability to learn is influenced not just by the quality of teaching and resources available but also by their health, well-being and emotional state.”
Maponyane said victims of bullying displayed “unusual behaviours” such as low self-esteem, aggression, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and increased absenteeism. Their academic performance deteriorated as a result.
Bullying caused physical, mental and emotional trauma in a learner that could remain with them for life if not addressed, Maponyane said.
She called for the scale-up of effective interventions like the Thari programme to address the root causes of bullying and learner violence.
“Schools cannot do it on their own. Parents, learners, non-governmental organisations, government departments and the broader community should come together to discuss the causes of violent acts in schools.”