For a behaviour to be labelled as bullying, it has to be persistent and intentionally designed to hurt or frighten another.
This is according to the Department of Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga who spoke to Vuk’uzenzele about bullying of learners in schools.
Mhlanga said in most cases, the bully normally has power and control over the victim.
He defined bullying in school as something that can occur either inside or outside of school. It can be physical, verbal, or emotional and is usually persistent.
“Bullying sometimes consists of a group of learners taking advantage of or isolating one learner in particular and gaining the loyalty of bystanders who want to avoid becoming the next victim,” said Mhlanga.
The department regards this type of behaviour as unacceptable and encourage affected learners or those who know someone who is being victimised to speak to an adult that they trust.
Parents and educators are also advised to stay vigilant, look for warning signs, and attempt to address problems quickly.
One of the signs is if your child feels a need to avoid certain areas on school property at certain times.
“Learners must feel safe at school. Parents and other adults can help learners who suffer at the hands of bullies,” Mhlanga said.
Tips for parents whose children are affected by bullying
- Encourage your child to talk to an adult, such as a supportive teacher, every day to provide an update on the mistreatment.
- Be sensitive to the fact that your child may feel embarrassed and ashamed.
- Find out what happened, who was involved, and when and where it happened, and keep a record of this information.
- Ask your child to express his or her thoughts and feelings about what happened.
- Express confidence that you, the adults at school, and your child will be able to find a solution.
- Assure children that you will immediately investigate and report the matter to the school principal or senior teacher.
- Ask for a copy of the school’s policy.
- Avoid being a “fix-it” dad or mom by calling the bully’s parents. Most of the time, this action is not effective.
- Don’t tell your child to retaliate. It’s against the rules, and retaliation frequently makes the bullying worse and more persistent.
- Watch for signs of depression and anxiety in your child, and do not hesitate to seek professional counselling.
Mhlanga added that schools are encouraged to have strategies that combat bullying and policies that address it. These include school forums devoted to bullying problems, increase adult supervision in the school premises, and emphasise consequence management for those hurting others.
Report bullying by calling:
0860 010 111
0800 202 933
ChildLine - South Africa 08000 55 555