Violence remains a real challenge in South Africa decades after the end of apartheid. In the school context, there are almost daily reports in the press of violent incidents in schools. They range from bullying and rape to stabbing and shooting. Time and again, these reports say that schools do not adequately handle allegations of bullying victims.
Empirical research on bullying is relatively recent, with the first studies appearing in the 1970s in Scandinavia. However, with increased media coverage and increased awareness, bullying has received unprecedented academic attention internationally.
Bullying, long endured by many as a rite of passage into adulthood, is now recognized as a major preventable public health problem, which can have long-term negative consequences. Bullying behavior can be found as early as preschool, although it peaks during the middle school years.
It occurs in a variety of social settings, including classrooms, playgrounds, school gyms, buses, and over the Internet. It affects not only the children and youth who are being bullied, the bullied and the bullied alike, but also the bystanders of the bullying incidents.
There are many different definitions and concepts of what bullying is. I like this definition: “Bullying occurs when a person or group of people tries to annoy another person by saying bad or hurtful things to him or her over and over.
Sometimes bullies hit or kick people or force them to hand over money; Sometimes they tease them over and over again. The person who is being bullied finds it difficult to prevent this from happening and is afraid that it will happen again.
Bullying is now generally seen to have these elements: the desire to harm; committing harmful behavior (physical, verbal, or relational) in a situation where there is an imbalance of power in favor of the perpetrator(s); The act is considered unjustified and is usually repeated; It is experienced by the target of aggression as unfair and by the perpetrator as pleasant.
Before schools embark on awareness campaigns or engage anti-bullying experts, they need to have policies in place to ensure student safety.
Bullying may cause harm or distress to the targeted person physically, psychologically, socially, or in terms of their education. Common types of physical bullying include hitting, kicking, and tripping; verbal such as insults and teasing; Social and relational such as spreading rumors and excluding someone from a group.
Bullying also happens through technology, which is called cyberbullying or cyberbullying Cyber bullying. The child or young person can be the perpetrator, the victim, or both.
Consider Sipho’s experience for a moment: “The bullying started towards the end of my sixth year. They started calling me names and making bad comments about me. I felt bad. They never hit me or pushed me. They kept saying things that were mean. It got worse when I was in seventh grade.. .
“There was a group of boys in my class…they always teased me. I tried to avoid them, to ignore them, but it didn’t seem to help. I eventually told my mother.
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She said to the teachers. They got all the learners together and told them this had to stop. They also made them write letters to apologize to me.
“The bullying stopped for about a month. But then they started again. I was upset and frustrated. I had made new friends by then, but the other boys kept following me. I tried to ignore them, but it didn’t help. I was losing self-confidence and becoming very unhappy, and it seems The teachers don’t care…
In the end, I told my parents that I didn’t want to go to school. After many discussions with the school, my parents took me outside…and I completed 7th grade at home. “
Sifu’s story illustrates the emotional consequences of bullying. It played on his mind when he was a young boy and he was eventually forced to drop out of school.
Bullying can also lead to physical injury, social and emotional distress, self-harm, and even death. It increases the risk of depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, poor academic achievement, and dropping out of school. Young people who bully others are at increased risk for substance abuse, academic problems, and violence in adolescence and adulthood.
A recent meta-analysis found that although boys and girls experienced relatively similar rates of being bullied, boys were more likely to bully others or to be bullied than girls. Interestingly, girls are more likely to report being bullied than boys.
Relationship bullying, which includes attempts to damage a victim’s reputation, is higher among girls than boys in mid-childhood or early adolescence. Relational abuse tends to be equally prevalent for both sexes in adolescence.
“Minor” violations and breaches of the rules should not be ignored.
Bullying involves more than just the bully and the victim. It also includes bystanders, who can be classified as mere bystanders, helpers of bullying, and reinforcers or advocates for victims.
Victims may feel rejected by their peers and feel isolated, anxious, and lonely, and the chronic victim may avoid attending school. Certain personality traits, such as shyness, make students vulnerable. Factors such as changing schools or changes in physical development can make students vulnerable.
What can schools do?
Before schools embark on awareness campaigns or engage anti-bullying experts, they need to have policies in place to ensure student safety. Their codes of conduct must be communicated and understood by everyone in the school community.
From a school’s perspective, it is crucial to teach students how to deal with conflict as it arises, and schools should not only expect students to solve all their problems on their own. It seems more clear than ever that learning how to behave in a group is an important life skill to be taught.
Adults need to supervise students in the school and must be visible in high-risk areas. They need to take an active interest and ensure that safety is one of the concerns that is constantly being addressed. Any acts of aggression or violence must be dealt with.
“Minor” violations and rule-breaking should not be ignored, and students need to understand that violent or aggressive behavior will not be tolerated at school. The consequences of breaking the rules must also be understood by everyone.
Most importantly, teachers need to model respectful behavior for students in how they behave as well as in how they treat their students. Schools should also get rid of practices that promote violence, such as corporal punishment.
Advice for parents
Most kids don’t seem to talk to their parents about bullying at school. If they talk to you, listen carefully and ask them what role they would like you to play in resolving the problem. Assure them that you will handle the situation sensitively and with the goal of protecting them from further harm.
Contact the school to report the bullying. Do not contact the other child’s parents directly, as this may escalate the issue and distance your child from their influence. Ask the school to investigate the issue and how long it will take to respond. You can request that your child’s identity not be shared to protect them from further retaliation.
Help your child develop interpersonal skills to help him overcome bullying. These skills include self-regulation, social skills and problem-solving. This can help your child stay calm and not get upset. Also, help your child identify safe places, friends and adults they can turn to for support. They need to know they have people they can count on to take care of them. DM
Dr. Mark Potterton is Project Manager for Three2Six Refugee Children.
This story first appeared in Our Weekly 168 newspaper, which is available nationwide for R29.