Beating the school bully-boys

2010-03-13 00:00

INCREASING instances of school-yard bullying have forced posh KwaZulu-Natal boarding schools to turn to anti-bullying programmes.

This comes after the suspension this week of a Kearsney College pupil found guilty of beating up smaller boys. It is believed that the senior pupil beat the smaller boys when they failed to complete their duties.

At a hearing, the school’s board also decided to expel the boy from the school’s boarding house.

A concerned mother, who did not want to be named, told Weekend Witness that the bullied boys were extremely traumatised and are receiving counselling, but are relieved that the culprit has been suspended.

More and more cases of bullying are being reported at schools, especially at all-boys boarding schools.

In Pietermaritzburg, a Dunveria Secondary pupil had to be transferred to another school after constant bullying by boys in his class.

The boy was removed after the Education Department intervened.

A study on school violence by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention in 2008 found that more than one in 10 pupils are physically bullied at school, and bullying is one of the most common forms of violence in schools.

Childline in KwaZulu-Natal reported they receive more than 1 000 calls a month from pupils who are being bullied at school.

Kearsney College headmaster Elwyn van den Aardweg confirmed that four boys were beaten by a senior pupil for failing to complete their duties.

“It flies in the face of the positive moves made at Kearsney in this respect in recent years. The moment we received word of the incident we set about dealing with it,” he said.

“Fortunately, the reporting structures that we have put in place allow us to work swiftly and effectively. In just over a week we were able to hold a disciplinary hearing and take action,” he said.

Educational psychologist Fatima Essack said pupil-on-pupil violence has become prevalent worldwide.

She said young people are more depressed, lonely, angry, prone to worry, impulsive and aggressive and that the turbulent stage of adolescence, the emphasis on academic achievement and the disintegration of the family unit further exacerbate this difficult and often confusing time in their lives.

“It is, therefore, imperative that the academic curriculum be broadened to develop the emotional intelligence of learners. This is the best predictor for success in life,” she said.

Dave Magner, principal of Durban High School, said there have been incidents of bullying at his school, but their strict policy of zero tolerance towards bullies is having a positive effect on pupils.

“One of the key areas has been in boarding. We have worked very hard to remove the fear factor from boarding. Some schools still, unfortunately, allow a certain amount of old school tactics to keep the boys in order,” he said.

He said the school’s policy seeks to affirm the positive through a rigorous and innovative leadership programme, so boys fully understand their responsibilities.

Van den Aardweg said that as part of Kearsney’s anti-bullying strategy, pupils are given talks from members of the Old Boy community on honour and character.

“The college has a qualified counsellor who will counsel the victims and the perpetrator. Victims are assisted in developing strategies in dealing with possible feelings of guilt they may have,” he said.

Essack said disciplinary measures and the school’s code of conduct needs to be enforced by all role players.

“Parents need to become more actively involved in their children’s lives. Social workers can provide counselling for troubled learners and refer to appropriate professionals if necessary,” she said.

-  Life Orientation lessons should emphasise respect for oneself and others.

-  Explicitly stated and consistently communicated school policies and code of conduct regarding procedures to address bullying should be made available.

-  Decide that all pupils, educators and parents should not be passive bystanders.

-  Pupils should be encouraged to “stand up” and “say no” to bullying and victimisation.

-  Lessons should incorporate time for informal discussion regarding experiences of bullying and/or victimisation. Possible solutions can then be discussed.

-  Parents and educators should help each child develop a sense of his/her own personal power and sense of self-worth.

-  Children should be taught how to be assertive and not allow themselves to be bullied.

-  Help children know when to absorb, ignore and walk away from insults and threats.

 - If a child is being harassed they should be encouraged to speak to a caring adult.

-  The bully should also be helped regarding his feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

— Source: Fatima Essack

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