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Andile Sithole
4 minute read
17 Apr 2021
06:13

Mother of bullied KZN pupil still struggling to get over incident

Andile Sithole

The mother of a Grade 11 pupil (21) who was bullied by a fellow pupil from Mathole High School in Ulundi, northern KwaZulu-Natal, is still struggling to get over the trauma of what happened.

The mother of a Grade 11 pupil (21) who was bullied by a fellow pupil from Mathole High School in Ulundi, northern KwaZulu-Natal, is still struggling to get over the trauma of what happened.

The woman, whose name cannot be revealed to protect the identity of the child, said after a video went viral on social media her daughter lost interest in her studies, which resulted in a poor academic performance.

The pupil failed Grade 11 last year as she could not focus on her studies.

In September last year she was attacked, dragged by her underwear and kicked in the face by a fellow pupil. A video was widely shared on social networks showing the attack. The bully was suspended at school and subsequently sent to jail for three months for failure to appear in court.

“I am still trying to recover from mental depression and stress. As a mother coming from a previously disadvantaged background, it breaks my heart to see my child struggling every day to deal with flashbacks and nightmares …

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“I am constantly reminded of the last year’s incident where she was shamed on social media. It will take a while to get over the pain and trauma because I will never forget the day my child was attacked,” she said.

The pupil who filmed the incident while the victim was being assaulted was also suspended from the school.

The mother said the recent video of a Limpopo pupil, Lufuno Mavhunga, who reportedly committed suicide after being bullied by a fellow pupil, brought back bad memories.

Lufuno’s death brought bullying into the spotlight at schools.

BULLYING AFFECTS ALL INVOLVED

Registered counsellor, founder of FaceUp and Sadag Trainer Cayley Jorgensen said bullying, in all forms, is a huge problem among South African school-going children.

She said it directly impacts on the mental health of all pupils involved —victim, bystander and bullies.

“Over the last couple of months, I have noticed an increase in suicide ideation, suicide attempts by both girls and boys as well as an increase in bullying cases among teenagers.

“Research shows that 23,6% of teens are struggling with feelings of hopelessness and sadness. It is really important from a community perspective that teens are encouraged to reach out for support if they are struggling.

An upstander takes action by telling the bully to stop, helps the victim, shifts the focus and redirects the bully away from the victim as well as reaches out to an adult to help.”
Counsellor Cayley Jorgensen

“In my experience, teens hold onto their thoughts and emotions as they don’t want to burden their parents or teachers and consequently their friends end up keeping these secrets out of fear of losing the friendship.”

Jorgensen said teens need to be provided with a safe space to receive support and counselling as well as equip them with the knowledge and resources to get help and look after themselves. “Teachers need to be equipped with the knowledge of how to help teens and where they can access this help …”

Jorgensen added that teenagers and children should be encouraged to become upstanders rather than bystanders.

“… An upstander takes action by telling the bully to stop, helps the victim, shifts the focus and redirects the bully away from the victim as well as reaches out to an adult to help,” Jorgensen added.

CALL FOR STRICTER CELL PHONE POLICIES AT SCHOOLS

The use of cellphones at schools has raised concerns among teachers’ unions. They are calling for stricter policies to be put in place at schools.

The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa) said there should be consequences for those who misuse cell phones, such as when videos of bullying are recorded.

Provincial CEO for Naptosa Thirona Moodley said they are not opposed to cell phone use in schools.

“We do understand that [pupils] may require cell phones in cases of emergencies or for academic reasons such as accessing the Internet.

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“Schools must have policies in place for the use of cell phones during school time. It cannot be denied that when videos find their way onto social media platforms it causes more harm than good … [Pupils] who record the videos are as guilty as the person who is the bully.”

Moodley also called on schools to create a safe environment that encourages victims of bullying to safely report “[Pupils] must know that there are consequences, and this may serve as a deterrent.

“Bullying must be regularly addressed in schools through parent meetings and meetings with the [pupils]. It must form part of the lessons and [pupils] must be taught that violence is not the only way to resolve conflict.”