Workshop explores growing complexity of school bullying

2008-10-08 00:00

“Bullying in local schools has reached pandemic proportions. The number of children we see, both victims and perpetrators, has grown exponentially in the last two or three years,” said Dr Beverley Killian, head of the School of Psychology’s Child and Family Centre (CFC) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzburg).

Killian was speaking at a workshop that the CFC ran recently for teachers, “Enhancing Educator Excellence”, which addressed the issues of discipline and bullying in schools.

An intern educational psychologist at the centre, Naomi Holdt, gave a presentation on how to beat bullying in schools.

She said the KwaZulu-Natal branch of Childline receives about 1 280 bullying-related calls a month.

“Research in Canada showed that one in six children is bullied.

“Through technology, bullying has become more complex and subtle, now including ‘cyberbullying’ or ‘technobullying’ through cellphones and the Internet.

“Bullying has also created a new category of suicide, called ‘bullycide’, which is children who commit suicide because they have been bullied. For example, there were 75 of these deaths in the UK between 1994 and 2005.”

Holdt encouraged teachers to get their schools to draft anti-bullying policies that adopt a “whole-school approach” in which all stakeholders are consulted: pupils, teachers and parents.

She suggested they start with an anonymous pupil survey to find out what bullying is occurring.

“You will be surprised to find how much bullying is going on in your schools and where it occurs,” she said.

Killian said the CFC has launched the workshop to try to provide teachers with better understanding of the psychosocial issues in the classroom.

“The types of cases that we see at the CFC are much more complex than 10 or 15 years ago. From this we know that the challenges teachers face are far more complex too.”

Forty teachers from 10 local primary and secondary schools attended the workshop. They identified a range of topics on which the CFC will run future workshops.

The CFC trains postgraduate psychology students. As part of their training, they provide psychological assessment and psychotherapy for a negotiable charge for people from local communities.

They work with children, adults, families and communities.

For further information, contact the Child and Family Centre at 033 260 5166.

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