Child protection week: Bullying in SA schools

Child protection week: Bullying in SA schoolsChildren grow up in a climate of violence (mentatdgt/Pexels)

This week is Child Protection Week and recent research done by the 1000 Women Trust has found that 57% of children have been bullied at some time during their high-school careers.

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The death of Limpopo teenager, Lufuno Mavhungu, brought the effects of bullying and violence on children caused by other learners at school, to the forefront. The grade 10 pupil was laid to rest after a video of her getting beaten up and called names by other learners went viral on social media in April this year. It is reported that she passed after a pill overdose following the incident. The #JusticeForLufuno hashtag was created in her name to raise awareness on the effects of bullying on children’s mental health, and to call for collective action from members of the public to prioritise the safety of children at school.

Bullying continues to be a part of the everyday life of school-going children in South Africa. Dr. Simangele Mayisela, an educational psychologist and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand with a special interest in school violence, said that bullying has lasting psychological effects on both the victim and the bully.

“Many children don’t report bullying because of the fear of being labelled and called weak. This can result in a child being withdrawn, depressed, anxious, and unable to socialise in their future. The children who witness others getting bullied are also affected because they may have low self-esteem due to guilt, being helpless and show signs of post-traumatic stress. Research has shown that male children especially, who become bullies, grow up to be verbally or physically abusive fathers and husbands,” she said.

Raising children in a violent society

“Are we so desensitised to violence as a society, that we have forgotten about the children we are raising who witness it and use each other as outlets of those experiences on the school grounds?” asked Mayisela.

She said that the high rate of violence towards women and children in South Africa has resulted in the neglect of protecting children from violence. Many children who end up being bullies have been exposed to some form of violence in the home environment.

Mayisela said that the violence may have been in the form of erupting physical altercations, authoritative parenting, or in the form of corporal punishment towards the child.

“Some of the psychological effects that children who are being bullied include a lack of concentration at school, poor attention, lack of sleep and they tend to go backwards in their growth and wet the bed. Parents should not feel helpless in managing these symptoms. They can constantly check the areas where the children spend most the day, including the scholar transport. Make sure they are settling in well at school, to make sure they have good relationships with their teachers and classmates. Look for bodily marks and observe their walk and talk. They should listen to their children and do something,” she said.

Mayisela urged parents to be conscious of how their parenting influences their children’s behaviour and thier perceptions of how another person should be treated.

#StopBullying

Child Protection Week is aimed at highlighting the need to protect children against all forms of violence.

The 1000 Women Trust is an organisation from Cape Town  started an anti-bullying campaign, including on social media, to create awareness. Using the hasthtag #StopBullying, they aim to provide women and girls with tools to find their own solutions to the problem of bullying in their communities. The campaign aims to encourage schools to create a culture of acceptance and communication amongst learners and was launched shortly after the death of Mavhungu.

Founding member of the organisation, Tina Thiart, said that a team was sent to Limpopo to start conducting training for trauma counsellors who visit schools and to provide them with the skills to share with teachers on how to address bullying and bullies.

The organisation also provides regular anti-bullying training to teachers and parents as well as a toolkit which provides the resources for teachers and parents to address bullying in all forms.

More than 3 000 parents and teachers have received training. By April, a total of 997 teachers and parents completed the training course run by 1 000 Women Trust which, according to the organisation, is a reflection of the need to urgently deal with bullying in South African schools. – Health-e News