Staff-room bullies

2013-09-28 00:00

HUNDREDS of teachers have been victims of bullying in schools, according to a report on workplace bullying that is currently under review to be published.

The report by Professor Corene de Wet from the School of Open Learning and Dr Lynette Jacobs from the School of Education Studies, both based at the University of the Free State, explores workplace bullying experienced by teachers.

They were expecting to find that senior staff bully their subordinates, but it was found that mostly it is colleagues on the same level who bully one another. Principals, parents, administrative staff and pupils are also among the perpetrators.

The research found that teaching is a high-risk job, with 90,8% of the teachers participating in the study having being victims of workplace bullying and at least 89,1% of the victims being exposed to at least two types of bullying.

Altogether, 999 teachers from all levels of schools took part in the research. The provinces with the highest numbers of participants included the Free State (434 teachers) KwaZulu-Natal (343), Eastern Cape (147), Northern Cape (35) and Gauteng (33).

The report found that most of the respondents were subjected to the following three types of negative behaviour: behaviour undermining their professional status (83,8%), behaviour that is isolating (80,8%) and behaviour that is undermining (66,3%).

Some of these acts include teachers being pressured to resign, being inspected by people in a lower position, being evaluated constantly, being made responsible for more work than they can handle and negativity from others because they work “too hard”.

Jacobs said depression is common, and absenteeism is increased among victims of bullying.

Physical effects are also experienced, such as stomach aches, weight loss or gain, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicidal thoughts.

“You can just imagine the impact of this in the classrooms.

“Some teachers become very aggressive, others completely lethargic,” she said.

The report said: “South African teachers are working in ‘toxic’ schools characterised by disgruntled, overworked and stressed teachers, high levels of pupil-on-pupil and pupil-on-teacher violence and bullying, communities fraught with moral degradation, racial conflict, violence, lawlessness and economic despair. In schools where despair and disrespect prevail, teachers often turn on one another.”

According to Jacobs, there is no quick fix and such actions are a betrayal of the Constitution.

“We need to engender respect, humanity and tolerance in our community.

“We need schools to become what our society is not –– places where dignity, respect, reconciliation, equality and accountability become the norm.”

She said that most of the time, victims are too scared to lose face and it sometimes takes a shocking incident to bring the problem to the fore.

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