Calleigh Jagers attempted suicide after she was bullied at school. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)
Calleigh Jagers attempted suicide after she was bullied at school. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Bullying and suicide survivor inspires others

By Genevieve Serra Time of article published May 2, 2021

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A 17-year-old girl who attempted suicide after she was bullied is taking her power back by giving motivational talks and hopes to open a centre for children who share her painful experience.

Calleigh Jagers, of Connaught Estate near Elsies River, has reached more than 2 000 likes and thousands of shares with a video about being bullied which led to a suicide attempt in 2019.

In the video, which is nearly six minutes in length, Calleigh is hard-hitting, describing her despair and fear at the hands of bullies at Elsies River High School when she was in Grade 9; her suicide attempt and later, her triumph.

Calleigh still has the scars on her wrists and arms after she began cutting herself and when she became overwhelmed. Being bullied also led to her swallowing prescription pills.

She was in a coma for three days at N1 City Hospital where she spent two weeks recovering.

She said her bullies would call her names, push her down the stairs and even tore up her Bible and threw it at her face.

The teen’s parents, Frank, 54, and Lucille Jagers, 37, are supporting her initiative and said their daughter had been failed by the education fraternity.

Calleigh hoped to open the Anonymous Hope Centre to address bullying.

“I had been at the school nearly ten times before her suicide attempt,” said her mother.

“When she attempted suicide, not even her teacher was aware of what happened. There was no communication from the principal to the parents of these bullies and to the staff.

“When I got one of these girls and her mother at a local shop, I informed the parent and she was not aware and she said she would discipline her child.

“We received a report that she had failed Grade 9. She was once the top pupil in her class but when the bullying began her marks began to drop.”

Parents Frank Jagers and Lucille Jagers speak out about their daughter, Calleigh Jagers's trauma and attempted suicide after she was bullied at school. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Lucille said their daughter is not in school now and that they had attempted to place her at various schools. They hope she will still complete her matric.

She is now on a mission to make a change in children’s lives and has built up the courage to share her story.

“The bullies always used to laugh at me and call me Vampire because I am pale, I am anaemic,” she said.

“I would always sit at the back of the class to not draw attention to myself. One day a girl I trusted, pushed me down the stairs.

“On another occasion, they grabbed my Bible which I carried with me everyday and tore it. They threw the pages into my face.

“There are so many children like me who are being bullied and they do not have anywhere to go, they don’t have anyone to speak to.

“My video, I thought, even if it helps one child and with the centre when afforded the space, will be a place where they can feel safe and comfortable to share what has happened.”

Frank said he was proud of his daughter and his message for other parents was that it all started with discipline.

“How you treat others and how you want to be treated. We believe God has placed our daughter on his path to be the voice for others as there are so many who are suffering with bullies but are too afraid to talk out,” he said.

Calleigh was set to make her first public motivational speech on May 1, at the GBV and Domestic Violence Workshop held in Kensington.

Steve Ross, of NPO Inspire Network, which has given Calleigh and other bullying survivor’s a voice, said he is proud of her.

“Calleigh shared her traumatic story about how she was bullied and what her future dreams are. I requested she put it on a video so it can be shared across a wider audience.

“The impact was almost immediate and I hope her vision to create the Anonymous Hope Centre to address bullying, will get attention and support,” said Ross.

Calleigh’s grandmother, Mavis Wepener, 67, said she would make space available at the early childhood development (ECD) education centre she owns, to accommodate the project he granddaughter wants to start.

Wepener was over 40 years in the ECD industry.

The 1000 Women Trust said they had received an influx of complaints about bullying. Their anti-bullying campaign started in 2019 and was aimed at creating awareness and finding solutions.

Kerry Mauchline, spokesperson to Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said they were aware of Calleigh’s case which had been received by the district but that they were unable to comment due to learner confidentiality.

Mauchline said the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) had an hotline available for bullying and that support was given to victims.

“The WCED's Safe Schools hotline is available to schools, teachers, parents and learners to report all school crime and abuse, and aims to contribute to a safe and crime-free school environment.

“The Safe Schools call centre can be reached at toll-free number 0800 45 46 47. Safe Schools then refers cases to our districts’ support staff as required.

“They include social workers and school psychologists who work with schools to support victims of bullying and interventions to address the behaviour of bullies,” said Mauchline.

“The WCED also provides training and support to schools on how to deal with bullying. Schools deal with bullying in terms of their codes of conduct, and intervene appropriately to support victims and to change the behaviour of bullies.

“Our Safe Schools division has also run programmes for many years designed to influence learners.”

She added they also focused on provided psychologists and social workers to be part of programmes at schools.

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