Bullying in South African – enough is enough

Real-life

Bullying in South African enough is enough

Bullying

Bullying in South African schools by pupils has reached ‘epidemic proportions’ and it’s everyone’s problem.

With his hands clasped tightly together and a look of disbelief in his eyes, an 18-year-old boy stands up to address the judge at the Boksburg Magistrates Court. Slight of build and wearing a faded blue T-shirt, the teen is accused of committing murder.

A learner at Phineas Xulu Secondary School in Maseko Street, Vosloorus, Ekurhuleni, the boy shot and killed a grade 10 pupil, Nkululeko Ndlovu, in what many say was triggered by weeks of bullying. It’s alleged that Ndlovu and another group of pupils had pelted the teenager with stones the day before and robbed him of his cellphone and clothes, leaving him with only his pants. For the boy, it was the last straw. He took his mother’s service firearm (a Vosloorus police officer) to school the following day and, just before the class wrote their year-end exam, he ended Ndlovu’s life.
One would expect outrage among fellow pupils over the shooting, but Ndlovu’s peers say they were not sad about his death as they too had been victims of his bullying. One boy claimed he was too scared to even go to the toilet because he had been attacked by Ndlovu, who allegedly grabbed him by the genitals and stole his money. Ndlovu’s family, however, denied he was a problem pupil and said they were not aware he was a bully.

While the incident has sent shockwaves through the Ekurhuleni community, reports and claims of bullying in schools is rampant. Earlier this year, St David’s Marist Inanda school in Sandton, Gauteng, took disciplinary action against senior pupils involved in forcing grade 8 students to mock rape bus chairs. A few weeks later, the Gauteng Education Department expelled five pupils for bullying at Lethabong High School in Soshanguve, Pretoria. The decision was taken after a learner, grade 10 pupil David Hlongwane, was so distraught after being bullied at school that he hung himself. Another learner was also suspended at the same time for assaulting a girl at school using an iron rod. Earlier this month, a teenager appeared in the Wentworth Magistrate’s Court in Durban after he allegedly stabbed a fellow pupil, aged 15, to death at the Fairvale Secondary School in KwaZulu-Natal.

“If you are different in any way, you run the risk of being picked on and rejected,” says Cassey Chambers, Operations Director of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag). “Bullying is on the increase yet, shockingly, parents, teachers and adults generally still don’t see anything wrong with it and underestimate the extent and effect of bullying.”

Bullying is the most common form of violence. Between 15 and 30 percent of teens have been involved with bullying yet more than two-thirds of teens believe schools respond poorly and that adult help is infrequent and ineffective. Are these views surprising when we consider 25 percent of teachers see nothing wrong with bullying?

Johannesburg-based psychologist Sandra Brownrigg says bullying has severe, long-term effects on a child’s mental and physical health. She says: “Victims of bullying are more likely to suffer physical problems such as common colds and coughs, sore throats, poor appetite, and night waking. Being bullied affects your concentration at school and results in a drop in school performance. Bullying affects the victim’s self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. Teens may start to withdraw socially and become depressed. Some may take weapons to school for protection or consider suicide as the only escape. Research has shown that even years after being bullied, past victims have higher levels of depression and poorer self-esteem that other adults.”

Provincial education MEC Barbara Creecy says while bullying is a serious problem for schools (speaking specifically on schools in Gauteng) the true extent of bullying is not known and will not be known because in most instances learners or their parents do not report the incidents because they fear further victimisation. “The provincial education department is rolling out its own plans to combat bullying, including at ‘high-risk’ schools, and policy documents for all schools. Schools are encouraged to review the policy for its effectiveness. In this way, we hope the policy will be respected and enforced as the department has adopted a collaborative approach,” she says.

The Other Side Of The Fence
It can be devastating to learn your child is the class bully. According to author Barbara Coloroso, who wrote the book The Bully, The Bullied And The Bystander (available from Kalahari.com), bullying is not about anger or conflict, it’s about contempt and contempt is learned. Since contempt is learned, it can be un-learned. Parents and educators should plan a rehabilitative programme for bullies so that they are able to learn to understand themselves and their feelings, understand the consequences of their actions, find other rewarding outlets for their power-seeking drives, and practice self-discipline and empathy for others. If your child is a bully, talk openly to them about their behaviour. Tell them their behaviour is unacceptable and harmful to both the victim and themselves. Try and help them understand the impact they are having on the child they are bullying, as well as on themselves. Notice and praise pro-social behaviour when it does occur and avoid consequences that humiliate and belittle. Seek professional help should your child continue bullying.

What To Do If You Are Being Bullied
Indicate to a bully that the behaviour is unacceptable. In addition, be prepared to work with bullies to help them find alternative ways of behaving.
Tell someone.
Ask the bully to stop. Someone might not know that their behaviour is hurting you.
Avoid being alone with the bully. Try to make friends and hang out as a group.

What To Do If Your Child Is Being Bullied
Be open to the possibility that your child may be being bullied.
If you suspect something may be wrong, ask.
Listen to your child and take them seriously.
Never blame the child.
Don’t keep it a secret.
Discuss practical ways to solve the problem.
Teach self-confidence, assertiveness and social skills.
Enrol kids in extra mural activities to help them widen their social circle.
Never expect kids to work it out on their own.
Talk to teachers and other parents – if there’s one bullied kid, there will be others.

Celebrities Who Were Bullied As Kids

It’s hard to imagine these celebrities were bullied as kids. Rapper Eminem was reportedly beaten so severely by a bully at school at the age of nine that he suffered a cerebral concussion, post-traumatic headaches, intermittent loss of vision and hearing, and other injuries to his head, face, back, and neck. In 1999 Eminem wrote a song about his attacker, DeAngelo Bailey, titled Brain Damage.
Vanessa Hudgens was constantly teased and bullied for her frizzy hair. A girl in her school would grab her hair and pull her to the ground.
Taylor Swift was dumped by a group of popular girls at school who she hung out with for ‘not being cool or pretty enough’.
Twilight star Robert Pattinson would get beat up for his ‘actor-like’ attitude.
“I got beaten up by a lot of people when I was younger,” he says.” I was a bit of an idiot, but I always thought the assaults were unprovoked.”
As a child, Mila Kunis would come home crying from school, because the other kids would make fun of her for having such big features.
Miley Cyrus was verbally bullied by her school peers, who even formed ‘The Anti-Miley Club’. One day she was locked in a bathroom by her bullies who challenged her to a fight, which had to be halted by the school principal.

Help Centres

PROCARE on 0861 776 2273 or email admin@procare.co.za
SADAG has a toll-free suicide crisis line open seven days a week from 08h00 to 20h00 on 0800 567 567. Teens can also sms 31393 for help.
Police and Trauma Line (08h00-20h00): 0800 205 026
Bipolar Line (08h00-20h00): 0800 708 090
Sleep Line (08h00-20h00): 0800 753 379
Department of Social Development Substance Abuse Line: (24-hr helpline): 0800 121 314, sms 32312
SADAG Mental Health Line (08h00-20h00): (011) 262-6396
Dr Reddy’s Help Line (08h00-20h00):
0800 212 223
Psychiatric Response Unit (Gauteng Emergencies 24-hour): (010) 040-4357
SADAG has a toll-free suicide crisis line open seven days a week from 08h00 to 20h00 on 0800 567 567. Teens can also sms 31393 for help.
Police and Trauma Line (08h00-20h00): 0800 205 026
Bipolar Line (08h00-20h00): 0800 708 090
Sleep Line (08h00-20h00): 0800 753 379
Department of Social Development Substance Abuse Line: (24-hr helpline): 0800 121 314, sms 32312
SADAG Mental Health Line (08h00-20h00): (011) 262-6396
Dr Reddy’s Help Line (08h00-20h00):
0800 212 223
Psychiatric Response Unit (Gauteng Emergencies 24-hour): (010) 040-4357
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