Schools are meant to be a place of safety and learning for children, but for too many they are also a place of torment. According to one report, South African children face more bullying than those in any other country, barring Jamaica. LIZEKA MDUNA spoke to teachers and pupils at Durban schools about their experiences with bullying.
Siyamcela Mtshiza, 18, pupil, Durban
At school we are taught about bullying and the forms in which it comes. Bullying is basically when someone exerts power over you. Although I have never been a victim of bullying, I have witnessed someone from school being bullied. Some bullies don’t even realise that they are actually bullying others. Children who torment others are normally having behavioural issues because of their backgrounds. Sometimes you find that they are going through problems and they use bullying as a shield so that nobody reads through their problems. The only way bullying can be overcome is if all schools have counselling offices where learners can go instead of feeling helpless.
Sanelisiwe Mbatha, 37, educator, Durban
As a parent and life orientation teacher it is my responsibility to emphasise the dangers associated with bullying. I take it very seriously. Bullying is unacceptable and some learners resort to suicide, especially if the bullying is continuous without anyone paying attention. Some children find it hard to communicate with parents or anyone else regarding bullying and that’s why we have a policy at school which strictly states that bullying is a serious offence and could lead to serious consequences. We have had an incident where a child was being bullied and we had to suspend the bully for a very long time. Parents also have a responsibility and a role to play when it comes to raising children and moulding their minds so they can distinguish between wrong and right. Discipline begins at home.
Sibusiso Mabaso, 19, pupil, Chesterville
What I understand about bullying is that it can happen to anyone regardless of race, gender and age. Normally people who are being bullied keep it a secret until they can’t take any more of it. In grade 8 I was bullied by boys who were older than me; each time I went to the toilet they made me pay R2. It was emotionally disturbing because that was the only money I had for lunch and sometimes I didn’t carry money to school. Bullies have a tendency to make others do things that they are incapable of doing themselves. Having been a victim of bullying and being taught about it in class, I decided that I wasn’t going to let anyone bully me or others under my watch. Bullying is a bad thing and it affects children, even academically.
Shivani Naidoo, 37, educator, Reservoir Hills
I have been here since 2006 and I have encountered bullying incidents; it happens frequently. In the past we had a non-bullying policy, it did help but not for too long because eventually everyone forgot about it. Parents also have a role in their children’s behaviour. Some kids are coming from broken homes where they experience abuse and they take their anger out on others. Bullying can be dealt with by laying a foundation in children when they are still young; talking to them about self-confidence and how to assert themselves when reacting to a problem; and offering them a support system should they become victims.
Luthando Mthabela, 17, pupil, Umlazi
Bullying is prevalent in most schools, especially in interracial schools. It is not only about those who are being bullied – the only way to get to the core of bullying is to look at the bully. Try and observe them and find out about their backgrounds because kids who bully others are normally going through issues, whether at home or in school. It’s either they are coming from disadvantaged backgrounds or they are struggling academically. I believe that there is no kid that would enjoy tormenting others for the fun of it. Bullies need help to deal with their issues.