Bullying a growing concern in schools

Schools must have a robust anti-bullying strategy alongside teachers and parents

Schools must have a robust anti-bullying strategy alongside teachers and parents

Published Nov 24, 2023


Teacher unions, political parties and the National Association of School Governing Bodies have raised concern about the issue of bullying at schools.

This comes after a TikTok video was shared by a Grade 11 schoolgirl in northern KwaZulu-Natal who spoke of her bad experience of being bullied.

In another incident, allegations of bullying at a Gauteng school are being investigated after a Grade 6 learner was found hanged at his home last month.

In the northern KZN incident, the KZN Department of Education said they are addressing the matter.

Thirona Moodley of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa said schools should be safe havens for pupils.

“Any form of bullying, harassment and violence must be dealt with in the strongest way possible. Perpetrators must be held accountable. Schools must educate all learners regarding the reporting processes when they are victims and the school must act quickly against the perpetrator.”

Mugwena John Maluleke, general secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union, said pupils need to respect themselves and then respect others.

“We also need the Department of Basic Education to create an environment that is free from bullying.

We need parents to show children love, even if they make mistakes they should not be ostracised or beaten as this is where bullying can start. If we start at home, that is where the cycle of bullying can be broken.”

National Association of School Governing Bodies general secretary Matakanye Matakanya said school governing bodies needed to formulate a policy to regulate behaviours in schools.

“Bullies need to be identified and need to be suspended from school. Parents must be involved and know if their children are involved in bullying, and educate them about what is right and wrong.

“The Department of Education needs to step in and provide counselling to affected pupils.”

Marina van Zyl, DA national spokesperson on Basic Education, said bullying was a significant challenge in South African schools.

“It’s not always learners bullying each other. Teachers also fall victim to abuse from learners. All schools need to have an anti-bullying policy and prevention plan, including details on how teachers and learners can report bullying and address abusive behaviour.

There need to be transparent processes for reporting abuse. Poor handling of such circumstances may discourage others reporting abuse. Poor handling of such circumstances may discourage others from reporting abuse in the future.”

Van Zyl added that a safety culture needs to be established by ensuring students feel comfortable and confident in reporting incidents.

Thembeni kaMadlopha-Mthethwa, IFP KZN provincial spokesperson on Education, said bullying must stop.

“The bullying at (the northern KZN school) is a reminder of the serious problem of bullying in KZN.

It is important to speak out against bullying and take steps to prevent it. Learners must be able to learn in an environment without fear of being bullied. Bullying of any kind is unacceptable and must be addressed quickly whenever it arises. The government needs to invest in anti-bullying programmes and create a more supportive environment for learners.”

Professor Labby Ramrathan, from the School of Education Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said there needed to be a concerted effort to stop bullying.

“We need socialisation to start at home so bullying can stop. We also need to educate children about social media as this is where bullying can start, as social media paints a different picture.”

KZN Department of Education said that following the circulation of the TikTok video shared by the Grade 11 pupil. “The department has over the weekend traced the victim, arranged for our psychologist to have a session with her, interacted with her family, and assisted her in opening a case against the alleged perpetrator”.

The Mercury