By Adam Sibuyi, South Africa
The prevalence of bullying at school level has become a serious matter that requires urgent attention.
The DBE is urging various education stakeholders to unite against bullying in schools in order to create an environment that is conducive to learning. The Department has recently established a National School Safety Framework in order to assist in improving quality learning and teaching by providing safe school environments. This Framework requires various education stakeholders, such as parents, School Governing Bodies (SGBs), educators, learners and government officials to work as a team in ensuring that classroom activities can proceed without any interruptions.
In addressing cyber bullying, the Department has developed E-Safety Guidelines to educate learners about the different types of bullying that can occur on and through various different Information Communication Technology (ICT) platforms, particularly online bullying, to encourage them to remain vigilant when using e-learning programmes or ICT resources.
Director for School Safety, Mr Paseka Njobe, said: “Bullying entails the involvement of one or more persons singling out the victim and deliberately hurting him or her physically, mentally or emotionally. It involves an imbalance of power in age, status, or popularity and physical strength; bullies usually have more power than their perpetrators. The main aim is to harm the victim by hurting them physically or mentally. Learners must immediately report early warning signs and threats of bullying to their teachers or School Management Team and should keep record of recurring incidences. In the case of cyberbullying, learners should notify their parents or any trustworthy adult”.
A school’s Code of Conduct is a mechanism through which bulling is addressed in line with prescribed policies. The Department provides teachers with the necessary training to combat bullying in schools, as well as ways of disseminating the preventative measures and means of support to learners. All public schools have a confidential reporting system in place, which is linked to the South African Police Services (SAPS).
Mr Njobe added: “The Department has also developed and trained educators on guidelines for the prevention and management of bullying in schools, which includes all forms of bullying. Teachers and schools can prevent bullying by establishing and enforcing school rules, as well as the existing anti-bullying policies that clearly describe how learners are expected to treat each other. Consequences for violations of the rules should be clearly defined. Teachers must be ready to provide the necessary support to both the victims and the perpetrators of bullying. The DBE has compiled and developed a booklet with a set of guidelines for both parents and learners on how to address incidences of bullying which has since been distributed to schools. If a child has been involved in bullying someone else, acknowledgement of the situation, as well as the reprimanding of the learner might prevent the bullying from becoming a habit or a way to gain attention. Parents must teach their children to take responsibility for his/her part in bullying”.
All forms of bullying should be addressed as it affects the learner’s academic progress. “The effects of cyber bullying on an individual can result in low self-worth, sadness, anger, declining grades, inexcusable absenteeism, violence and even suicide. It is imperative that we educate our learners and school communities about bullying behaviour, as well as ways to prevent it,” Mr Njobe concluded.