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How to deal with bullying in schools

Bullying and intimidation have become widespread in South African schools, with reports of student abuse becoming increasingly common.

If your child is exhibiting signs of sudden decreased interest in the favourite school activities, frequent stomach ache and headache, sleeplessness, suicidal tendencies, or unexplained scratches and bruises, then they might be a victim of bullying.

Bullying in schools comes in two forms, namely teacher to child bullying and student-on-student bullying. Teacher to child bullying involves screaming, threatening or inappropriately disciplining students in front of their class. This is not always a one-way phenomenon – conversely, students may very often intentionally humiliate teachers by not complying with their requests.

The more common form of bullying is student-on-student bullying, and may occur either inside or outside of school grounds. According to the Department of Education, this type of bullying involves 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.

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Parents and schools both have a role to play in the fight against bullying. Schools need to make it clear that bullying is not acceptable, that there are consequences to hurting others and that victims need to come forward. If a parent becomes aware of a situation involving bullying, they should firstly stay calm and thereafter provide emotional support to the child, encouraging them to open about their experiences and suggesting that the school increase supervision in the high-risk areas where the child has to go.

During these 16 Days of Activism, be aware that combatting bullying is a collective effort, and if you are a victim of bullying or emotional abuse, speak to someone close about it. Alternatively, reach out to Childline South Africa for counselling. You can also view this handbook from the Department of Basic Education which provides tips for parents and children on dealing with bullying at schools.

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