Bullying and violence in schools is a serious problem, as demonstrated by the stats: at least 30% of students, globally, are victims of bullying, reports the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The first Thursday of November, every year, has been declared by UNESCO an International Day against bullying and violence at school, to recognise that school-related violence in all its forms is an infringement of children's rights to education and health.
Sharing some insights into the most common type of bullying in schools is Mabel Sikhakhane, the Head of Department of Pre-primary, and Chairperson of the School-Based Support Team (SBST), at Nokuphila Primary School.
Sikhakhane says that the most typical form of bullying is habitual teasing, where victims are often bullied based on their physical attributes, ethnicity, and nationality. Victims of this bullying are usually students who are seen as different.
Although teasing among children is commonplace, she says that repeated teasing is bullying, and is harmful.
She noticed in her school among the older Grade 7 students that traditional bullying may have decreased, but cyberbullying is on the rise in this peer group.
Parents often struggle to identify cyberbullying due to illiteracy, especially in poor communities, Sikhakhane says.
She adds that bullying in poor communities is prevalent due to the following major factors:
1. Low parent involvement in children's schooling.
2. High levels of adult illiteracy result in parents not being able to assist their children with schoolwork or read letters sent by the school informing them of their children's misbehaviour.
3. Children have higher exposure to bullying and violence at home, leading to them mimicking that behaviour.
4. Unwillingness of parents to cooperate with the teachers when they are told that their children are bullying others. She says that this motivates their child to carry on bullying others.
Read: 'Very challenging and tricky to address': Local panel discusses school bullying
Bullying is a cry for help
Sikhakhane believes that bullying is a learned behaviour, and a cry for help. There is always a more significant problem at the heart of the bullying, and by simply punishing the bully, you are making things worse, she says.
She and her team have achieved excellent results at their school, where they provided counselling to both the bullies and the victims, and joined workshops that teach them about bullying.
She believes that teachers can do a lot to stop bullying by addressing fights and bullying behaviour as it happens and by finding the root cause of the bullying.
Teachers must act swiftly, she says. Expulsion is always treated as the final resort once all avenues have proven unsuccessful, she explains.
Don't just walk away
Sikhakhane wants to appeal to communities to help stop bullying by not ignoring it when it happens.
She says communities must deal with bullying issues as they deal with hot topics like electricity issues, dumping and drug abuse, because it takes a village to raise a child.
Submitted to News24 by The Love Trust.
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