Bullying increasingly becoming a problem at schools – experts

Bullying at schools is increasingly becoming a problem and extreme cases of the phenomenon can attract expulsion.

This is according to Paul Colditz‚ the chief executive of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools ( Fedsas).

His comments come in the wake of video footage of a violent bullying incident at a Stellenbosch high school that has gone viral on social media. The video shows a school girl being beaten by a classmate.

The incident appears on what appears to be a cell phone footage and begins with a school pupil in a blue and white uniform sitting on a desk in a classroom facing a pupil who is seated. The girl on the desk grabs the pupil’s hair with her hands‚ then shakes and twists her head violently.

Bullying‚ according to Colditz‚ falls in the third category of the three types of misconduct entailed in the schools’ code of conduct. It is an offence that is dealt with by the School’s Governing Body‚ which upon investigation‚ recommends a sanction to the head of department at the school.

“It [bullying offence] can lead to a suspension or a disciplinary hearing‚” Colditz said.

“Depending on the seriousness of the incident‚ personal circumstances of the offender and whether they are a first or repeat offender‚ expulsion can follow.”

In cases where the offence is not serious‚ a pupil can be suspended for seven days‚” Colditz said.

“The bullying of the nature I saw on social media [on the recent video]‚ is very serious.

“Bullying is increasingly becoming a problem at schools‚” he said.

The Western Cape department of education defines bullying as:
“… when a child or a group of children misuse their power to hurt other children or exclude them.”

The department‚ on its website‚ provides guidelines for schools on dealing with bullying.

The department says there are three main types of bullying and these are: verbal and written‚ physical and social.

“All learners who are guilty of bullying should be called to account. It will send out a clear message that bullying will not be tolerated.

“It is however important that the focus should not be on punishment so much as on the changing of behaviour‚” the department says.

“Once bullying has been identified‚ it is important to address the situation as soon as possible with the school concerned‚ where appropriate measures and actions can be discussed and implemented.”

Beverley Dyason of MIET Africa‚ a non-profit African education organisation‚ said bullying is a wide-spread problem.

“It’s not always easy for children to tell when they are being bullied. Bullying is under reported because children fear further bullying.”

Children who bully others do so because of‚ among others‚ lack of respect for others and understanding diversity‚ Dyason said.

“Action should be taken against those who are perpetrators. Schools should encourage learners to take action against those who bully them. Teachers should also not allow a negative environment‚” she said.

Educational psychologist Cara Blackie said bullying is “extremely common”‚ but not often spoken about.

“Our biggest problem is brushing it off. It’s something that parents need to take a deeper listen to.”

Even mild or just intimidation‚ bullying should be dealt with accordingly‚ Blackie said.

Children who bully others do so for a number of reasons‚ Blackie said.

“It depends on the environment the child is raised and brought up in and the community setting.

“Bullies often feel weak and need to be in control. They somehow feel insecure.”

She said schools should encourage pupils to speak out and report bullying and set rules that are strict for everyone.

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