Bullying allegations surface in teen suicide in Pretoria - Sinoville Crisis Centre

2019-02-19 15:48

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Another incidence of bullying is believed to be at the centre of what has led a 13-year-old Doornpoort Primary School pupil in Pretoria to commit suicide.

The parents of the Grade 7 pupil found her body in her bedroom on Monday.

The Sinoville Crisis Centre, which deals with matters affecting young children and teenagers, asked that the child's identity not be disclosed.

According to the centre, the teen sent her friend an image of herself, which was distributed among pupils on various WhatsApp groups. The pupils mocked and shamed her.

It is believed that the deceased was criticised about her physical appearance and that she felt humiliated and feared going to school.

"Preliminary investigation on the incident suggests that the deceased learner was allegedly bullied by a fellow Grade 7 learner, who threatened to distribute video material depicting the deceased learner naked. The deceased learner reported the bullying to her Life Science educator after school on Thursday, 14 February 2019, however, the accused learner had already left school," Gauteng education department spokesperson Steve Mabona said in a statement on Tuesday. 

On Friday, her mother went to school to complain about the bullying after her daughter complained to her. The teenager did not go to school that day. 

READ: Social media and teen mental health: Wake up! Speak up!

The organisation's CEO, Colleen Strauss, said following the incident, counsellors from the centre were deployed to the school on Monday to comfort pupils and the parents. The department said it had also dispatched its psychosocial unit.

The department has already started an investigation into the bullying allegations. It added that necessary action will be taken against all implicated learners.

"This heart-breaking incident is a wake-up call to everyone working with children. Children experience emotions much more severe and can be very impulsive. They don't have the knowledge to realise in the spur of the moment that everything will be ok tomorrow," Strauss said.

The organisation cautioned parents and teachers that children's complaints about being bullied should never be ignored.

"They should be referred to an adult who is trained to help them to cope with the situation or who will act against the bullies. This incident could have been prevented. There is always help. Suicide is not the solution," said spokesperson for Sinovile Crisis Centre Sonja Carstens.

Bully behaviour

She added that bullying and sarcastic remarks were common among children of all ages and did not only include physical violence.

"Typical bully behaviour would be for girls to spread gossip or false rumours about a friend in a peer group. It is also not unusual for girls to target boys. Especially children who are soft-spoken and shy are targeted.

"Research has indicated that girls start with bully behaviour in grades 4 and 5. This behaviour emerges again during puberty especially among Grade 8 and 9 pupils, when they have increased hormone activity," Carstens said.

The organisation asked parents and teachers to be mindful of warning signs, such as changes in eating and sleeping patterns, nightmares, headaches or stomach pain, irritability, moodiness or isolation from daily activities. 

The department said it had a policy of zero tolerance to bullying or any form of misconduct. It added that anyone found to be transgressing this policy is dealt with in line with South African Schools Act (SASA) code of conduct. 

"On behalf of the entire education fraternity in Gauteng, we would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family of the deceased learner. We hope that the family will find comfort in the knowledge that we too share their loss. No words are enough to express our sorrow at a loss of a child", said MEC Panyaza Lesufi.

Read more on:    pretoria  |  education  |  health
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