Why this Soshanguve teen took a stand against bullies: ‘I was told I look like shoe polish’

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Njabulo Zulu, who was bullied from grades 1 to 5, won an award for her anti-bullying work in her community. (PHOTO: Justice Photography)
Njabulo Zulu, who was bullied from grades 1 to 5, won an award for her anti-bullying work in her community. (PHOTO: Justice Photography)

In primary school she was mercilessly teased for her dark skin and natural hair – but no one is laughing at her now. Njabulo Zulu from Soshanguve in Pretoria North recently won the fabulous girl of the year award for taking a stand against bullying.

READ MORE | Potchefstroom mom starts a smear campaign against her daughter’s ‘bully’

The 15-year-old activist was recognised at the ninth annual Fabulous Woman Awards, held to honour women who possess ethical leadership, vision, innovation, excellence and entrepreneurial drive. An initiative started by business woman, Pontsho Manzi.

For Njabulo, it was a double celebration. “I received the award the day before my birthday on Women’s Day,” she tells YOU. “It’s the best thing ever.”

njabulo zulu, antibully, motivational speaker
She runs three anti-bulling campaigns where she speaks to pupils, parents, and educators. (PHOTO: Lentswe TV)

The teen activist started her work as an anti-bullying activist after years of being taunted for her physical appearance. When she was in primary school, the bullying got so bad she had to switch schools. 

“I was told I am black and not beautiful. I was told I look like shoe polish. I did not like myself,” Njabulo recalls.

Her mother, Dudu, started worrying after she noticed a difference in her behaviour. After school she’d go straight to her room, draw her curtains and lock herself in her room. 

“At some stage I thought there must be something wrong,” Dudu (36) says. “Whenever I’d ask about school, she did not want to talk about it. That’s when I became suspicious.” 

njabulo zulu, antibully, motivational speaker
She celebrated her 15th birthday the day before she won her award. (PHOTO: Justice Photography)

In Grade 4, Dudu moved Njabulo to a public school. They’d hoped things would be better, but it got worse when her peers mocked her complexion and hair texture.

Things took a toll one day when she was in Grade 5. Two of her classmates held onto her arms while another one combed her hair. 

Her mother was shocked when Njabulo told her what had happened. “I told her not to believe anything the bullies said. I reminded her she is beautiful, and you just have to love yourself. You can’t allow anyone to make you feel less worthy.” 

Dudu took the incident up with the school principal and the pupils apologised to Njabulo. It was then she began to feel better about herself. “Instead of sitting and doing nothing, I decided I want to stop bullying. I wanted to help others so they wouldn’t feel the same way I did.” 

njabulo zulu, antibully, motivational speaker
Njabulo with her mother Dudu. Her mother told her she's beautiful and should love herself. (PHOTO: Supplied)

At the age of 10 she started her first anti-bullying campaign and ever since her projects have grown. Earlier this year she spearheaded a sanitary-towel drive for girls from disadvantaged communities, which she donated to her school. She followed it up by collecting boys’ deodorant.

Njabulo might only be 15, but she’s already making a difference in her community. “With my #IAmAntiBullying campaign, I go to different schools, teach learners about bullying and I motivate them,” she proudly says.

njabulo zulu, antibully, motivational speaker
Her next mission is to handover deodrants to the boys at her school. (PHOTO: Dibzin Photography)

#PlayYourRole is aimed at parents. Njabulo goes to churches where she speaks to parents about how to talk to their kids and “#BTalksWithNjabuloZulu is an event I would like to host”, she says.

READ MORE | This eight-year-old girl has the perfect response to a bully and is setting serious role model goals

“I want to invite professionals, parents and learners during Anti-Bullying Awareness Month [October] so we can unpack bullying.” 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Show Comments ()