Bullying in schools is a global phenomenon that has the potential to impact on children not only physically but also psychologically. In South Africa, countless children fall victim to bullying, harassment and abuse at schools. A myriad of constitutional rights are infringed upon when bullying occurs, and the problem is escalating. Recently in October 2016 two pupils from Groote Schuur High School in Cape Town where suspended, and another, from a Lotus River school, faced disciplinary action after their bullying video went viral.
As this problem escalates, Africa Unite high school clubs from 5 different townships in Cape Town felt that they could not be by standers and something needs to be done.
On the 5th of November 2016, the AU School Clubs came together in dialogue to tackle this challenge and develop recommendations that could be implemented in their respective schools. The dialogue was held at the Africa Unite offices and over 40 learners attended.
To begin the session the learners were told to explain what bullying is, identify the types of bullying in their schools and share if any of them had experienced bullying before. Due to the violent nature of their communities it was not surprising that most of learners witnessed and experience bullying so regularly, “Bulling happens every day: We don’t know the difference between bullying and playing anymore”, said one of the learners.
The learners were then divided in 4 groups to identify the following:
- The types of bullying which they have witnessed or experienced within their townships
- Their feelings or emotions of bullying whether being a perpetrator, victim, by-stander or healer of bullying.
- Who is to blame?
- Provide an action plan to be implemented in their respective schools to address effectively the scourge of bullying
The groups had heated discussions around the questions above and several key issues were raised such as:
- Bullying often occurs because of stress, family issues; peer pressure and conformity; stressful relationships and seeking power and authority especially among the older learners
- Bullying makes them feel angry, relieved, emotionally distressed, sad, isolated, rejected, disgusted; scared of going to school. Cyber bullying was viewed as emotionally distressing.
The learners also developed their action plan which they intend to implement in their respective schools regarding the issue of bullying as follows:
- Firstly, all learners from the 5 schools agreed to go back to their schools and inquire if there is an existing school policy on bullying. If not, they would lobby together with their authorities for one
- Learners agreed that the school must stick to its polices; Learners should be disciplined – but it should be fair to all the learners and the community should be made aware because often the victim is followed outside the school premises for revenge
- use of social media to campaign against bullies and develop more awareness campaigns and posters around the schools and urge communities to assist also because some of the problems start at home. The learners came up with the hashtag: #youcanbecoolwithoutbeingabully
- Recruit peer educators or bully teams that can assist other learners that are facing many challenges including bullying
- On orientation day for new learners, each learner must receive a code of conduct and recruited peer educators can assist to explain the policies, consequences and actions of being a victim or perpetrator of any form of bullying
- They should have an anonymous box to inform the school if bullying is occurring
- Develop and anti-bullying song to raise awareness and spread the message among all learners
- Provide counselling for the perpetrators and the victim.
- They also expressed that it is important to educate the younger grades upon bullying and distinguishing the problems from a young age to enhance the support in the future.
In conclusion, the learners were eager to follow up with the above recommendations in their schools and acknowledged that they cannot run away from reality that bullying is a problem and It will not be eradicated but can be reduced. After all was done the opportunity was then given to three cabinet members who had a chance to discuss more about the purpose of the dialogue and the Africa Unite Clubs a day before the event on Bush Radio. The 3 learners expressed their excitement of this life time experience of being on Bush Radio which is one of Africa’s oldest community radio station project based in Cape Town, South Africa with over 100 000 listeners.
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