Vulnerable learners are often victim to bullying
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Cape Town - Basic Education Deputy Minister Makgabo Reginah Mhaule says the department has put measures in place to deal with the scourge of bullying and violence in schools.
Members of Parliament on Thursday gathered to debate the scourge of violence and bullying in schools following the death of 15-year-old Lufuno Mavhunga from Limpopo.
The extent of bullying endured by the young girl led to her taking her own life after a video showing a humiliating, violent attack on her by a fellow pupil did the rounds on social media.
She attended Mbilwi Secondary School. A 14-year-old learner was arrested for allegedly assaulting Mavhunga.
Portfolio committee on basic education chairperson Bongiwe Pricilla Mbinqo-Gigaba says parents and guardians should take the responsibility to raise their children to be aware of the effects of bullying and cyberbullying.
Mbinqo-Gigaba opened the debate by saying Mavhunga’s death was a reflection of the social ills which confront society. “Many learners in our schools experience such humiliation and bullying. This humiliation was expanded by the violent distribution of the incident on social media platforms. As much as social media platforms create ease offering information, in this regard it served as one of the factors which contributed to degrading her dignity. Broadly in society bullying is a prevalent issue, and cyberbullying is becoming a prominent feature due to the fact that many South Africans use social media platforms to socialise and for economic reasons.”
Mbinqo-Gigaba said parents and guardians should also take the responsibility to protect their children and raise them to be aware of such risks. “The dangers of bullying is that the times our children are bullied, they hardly report the issues in their schools or the guardians. This bears a critical responsibility for children and their guardians.”
DA MP Bridget Masango said advances in technology and the rise of cyberbullying have meant that this scourge has transcended school classrooms and sports grounds, sweeping through our homes unchecked.
“Regrettably, bullying not only affects children. Everyone in society is affected. It is a multifaceted epidemic, and we need to work together if a dent in addressing this is to be made.”
She noted that the Department of Basic Education appeared to be working towards combating bullying in schools, but suggested that there needed to be a greater collaboration among all sectors of society.
“In a country where 160 000 high school learners bunk school every school day, it is no wonder our education outcomes are less than satisfactory. Many of these incidents of bunking could lead to drop-outs which predetermine their social and economic prospects later in their lives. But the causes need investigation.
“This calls for every one of us to encourage learners to break the silence on bullying, support our children and take the sting of secrecy out of the equation, expose the perpetrators, and stop them in their tracks. Open the lines of communication wherever young people are. We cannot nurture a generation of bullies as they will soon become adults who bully their peers.”
FF Plus MP Wynand Boshoff said the word “bullying” had a very down to earth origin.
“The victim may be ridiculed for being short, tall, skinny, fat, having funny ears, born out of wedlock, wearing glasses, walking in a funny way, or really any attribute. However, the real reason is some insecurity within the bully; he or she expects to feel better if someone else is hurt.
“Therefore, the bully identifies a victim who seems vulnerable and without a protector. Bullying may be only emotional, or it may become physical – even lethal.”
Boshoff added that teachers have their hands tied when such instances occur at schools.
“Teachers lose the authority to enforce discipline at schools, which means that bullies usurp that authority and exercise it without the necessary knowledge or comprehension of consequences.”
Mhaule said it’s vital that schools provide support to all the learners involved in bullying incidents.
“As a society we must come together and handle these issues of bullying and violence in our schools.
“We have different kinds of bullying in our schools. We have verbal bullying, social bullying, physical bullying and cyberbullying. Learners who are perceived as different by others are more vulnerable to be bullied.”
Mhaule added: “The Department of Basic Education has put measures in place to ensure that the learning environment is safer and free from violence and intimidation, gender-based violence, alcohol and drug abuse.”