Bullies cannot be allowed to run amok in our schools

EXTREMELY HARMFUL: Bullying can affect the mental health of pupils, according to wrestling promoter Mark Beale, who runs extensive anti-bullying campaigns at schools in the metro
EXTREMELY HARMFUL: Bullying can affect the mental health of pupils, according to wrestling promoter Mark Beale, who runs extensive anti-bullying campaigns at schools in the metro
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Bullying in schools is not new. Every school has, no doubt, had to deal with at least one incident involving pupils being intimidated by their peers, be it physically or emotionally.

It is clear, however, that these incidents are becoming increasingly violent.

Yesterday, this newspaper reported on the violence and intimidation at Diaz Primary School in Algoa Park, where seven schoolchildren were expelled for threatening teachers and bullying other pupils.

Knives have been confiscated from some of the children, while a 10-year-old said he was threatened with sexual assault from a bully who was demanding money from him.

It is incomprehensible that this is taking place at a primary school, where children as young as 11 and 12 years old are running gang-like rings while other pupils — and even teachers — have to learn and teach in fear.

It is, however, a reflection of our society and the sad reality that the profile of bullies, and even criminals, is becoming increasingly younger.

Clinical psychologist Dr Estelle de Wit explained earlier this month that bullying mostly stemmed from unresolved feelings of anger, loss or fear.

“Social isolation triggers the same pathways in the brain as physical pain, and for some children bullying becomes a way of being part of a social group or perceiving themselves as less isolated,” she said.

The bullies exert power over their peers as an outlet for their pent-up frustration which often stems from trouble in the home life.

While we are mindful of the budgetary constraints at schools, particularly the most disadvantaged schools, the importance of having guidance councillors in schools cannot be over-emphasised.

There also needs to be a more proactive approach from the department of education to ensure anti-bullying programmes form part of the curriculum from as early as the foundation phase.

Intervening after months, if not years, of bullying may be too late for those who will have to deal with the emotional scars.

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