Study shows bullying is widespread

MORE than 50% of schoolchildren are bullied daily in South Africa.

The shocking revelation was uncovered during a recent study by the Annual Bullying Survey.

At the beginning of the new academic year, most parents fear the dangers and challenges their children could be exposed to in schools.

The Zululand community is also greatly affected.

According to various studies, bullying consist of direct behaviours such as teasing, taunting, threatening, hitting and stealing from a victim.

This pattern of behaviour has also increased dramatically compared to previous years.

Whether direct or indirect, the key component of bullying is the physical or psychological intimidation which occurs repeatedly over time, creating an ongoing pattern of harassment and abuse.

Research also shows pupils engaged in bullying seem to have a need for power and control.

According to Zululand psychologist, Dr Diane Southgate, genetics do appear to play a role in the development of personality and emotions such as aggression, frustration and intolerance.

‘Whether it is genetic or environmental is a longstanding debate. Parental influences interact with genetic predisposition to play a powerful role in shaping the behaviour of a child.

‘Most children who bully have witnessed this conduct in their own lives – aggressive action from parent or adults or being a victim of bullying themselves. ‘When parents deal with their frustrations by becoming aggressive, the child will model the behaviour and view it as acceptable,’ said Southgate.

While most pupils experience bullying during their school years, 39% have kept it a secret from their parents and teachers, according to the survey.

The signals

According to Dr Southgate, children appear to be afraid or reluctant to go to school in the mornings.

They complain about headaches, tummy pains and bad dreams, lose interest in academics and seem socially isolated.

Other signs include coming home from school with torn clothes or bruises, and the victims appear to be sad, irritable and have anger outbursts.

‘Children need to understand how important it is to report bullying. Encourage children to talk about what is happening at school,’

How to get help

• Tell a trusted adult – Don’t worry about being called a ‘tattletale’ or worse. An adult can talk to the bully directly, to his or her parents, or to your teacher, and this has the highest success rate of ending bullying. If you don’t feel like talking to the adult face-to-face, you can always write a letter explaining what is happening.

• Don’t walk alone – Whenever possible, ask your friends to walk with you. If a friend isn’t around, either ask an adult to walk with you, or wait until an adult is walking in the same direction and walk next to them.

Avoid places where bullying happens – If a bully pushes you when he or she sees you in the hallway, try to stay out of that hallway at the same time. If you get picked on when you are sitting in the back of the bus, sit up front and near the driver. Stay away from unsupervised areas of the school and make sure you’re not alone in the bathroom, a classroom or the locker room.

• Leave your valuables at home – Don’t bring expensive items to school, such as jewellery, electronics or your best shoes or jacket. Label what’s yours – use a permanent marker to label your items so that there is no question that it belongs to you.

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  AUTHOR
Wellington Makwakwa
Journalist

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