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Motalatale S. Modiba
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Bullying leaves a mark

01 December 2012, 12:24

It has been rather a while since I last took time to reflect on this platform. It has taken a rather sad incident that happened recently at Phineas Xulu Secondary School in Vosloorus which saw a fellow learner taking the life of another to pull me out of an unplanned sabbatical.

Though in the extreme, the incident has not presented us with a new phenomenon. Most people would attest to either having experienced bullying or having meted it out at some point in their schooling years.

Thinking about the Vosloorus story brought back some unpleasant memories of my own. I still remember falling victim to bullying at the age of 16 years while in Grade 11 at PHL Moraka High School in Hammanskraal.

I was left itchy on the check after being given a hot clap by a bullying member of the Student Representative Council (SRC) in front of my class mates simply because I dared speak my mind on an issue I disagreed about.

Though at the time of the incident the SRC member was accompanied by two other students it still remains a question in my mind whenever I think about that incident as to how a class of more than 25 students were so intimidated by three students into doing nothing to help one of their own whose right to self expression was clearly being violated.

Even more, following what happened neither did any of my class mates, friends or even myself report the matter to the schools authority. It was like we had taken an oath of secrecy over the issue.

Come to think of it, I never reported the bullying event to my parents. To this date they still don’t know of the incident.

Although mine was a once off ‘minor’ incident, which was ‘less’ humiliating (in that neither my friends nor class mates teased me about it afterwards) the fact that the occurrence is still so vivid in my mind makes me wonder of those whose bullying encounters have not only been repetitive but have perhaps been exacerbated by teasing from their peers.

As part recollecting my thoughts on the bullying incident I called a couple of classmates and friends of mine who knew about the issue to see if they still remember it. Amazingly they still did.

One of them told me that he recently bumped into the SRC member who had inflicted uncalled for itchiness on my cheek. He apparently asked him about the incident. The SRC member did not remember. Probably because he had done the same to so many other fellow students and these were insignificant incidents to him. But to us ‘victims’ the memory of the bullying stays with you throughout your life.   

Like I indicated for me the encounter was far from being traumatic, some might even say I am making a lot out of an insignificant occurrence which falls short of many bullying incidents that a lot of students face regularly at school.

Coming back to the Phineas Xulu Secondary School shooting I sympathise with both the family of the alleged bully for having lost a loved one and the family of the 18-year-old bullying victim who might see their loved one going to prison for murder. Unlike mine, the Volsoorus incident demonstrates in the harshest way the consequences of bullying at our schools. Two lives have been irrevocably impacted and with those lives two families will never be the same again.     

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