One in 10 pupils drop out of school because of repeated bullying, according to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group.
October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month and a Retreat counsellor is taking it upon herself to try and lessen or eradicate bullying in schools.
Nadia-Toni Jacobs started an anti-bullying campaign in 2015 at various schools in Retreat when she realised that bullying was becoming an ever-increasing problem.
Ms Jacobs, along with her volunteers, have been running programmes at Thomas Wildschutt Senior Primary School in Retreat for the past year under the banner of non-profit organisation, Anchor, founded by Ms Jacobs.
The intervention programmes provide counselling and therapy for children who are identified as aggressive or those who show signs of becoming bullies, counselling those who are bullied as well as those identified as bullies. In the intervention process the most common bullying methods are addressed including family bullying, cyber bullying, covert bullying, sexual bullying, verbal bullying, alienation and physical bullying.
Ms Jacobs explains that bullying is a small word for a big crime and many people don’t realise that a bully has become one because of contributing factors such as violence at home, being bullied themselves or not being able to deal with their emotions.
“A small situation can turn into physical altercations. This is essentially a crime because if adults assault someone they get prosecuted. When children grow up with the bullying mentality, they become adults who bully and the cycle of violence continues and gets worse. What we try to do is change the mindset of the bully and make them understand what bullying is.
“Once he or she is emotionally intelligent, then the child can make better choices and that is the start of trying to deal with bullying in all aspects,” said Ms Jacobs.
Southern Mail spoke to one of the pupils who was identified as an emotional and verbal bully and who is currently being treated by Anchor. *John explained that hadn’t always been aggressive and short tempered. About a year ago he was bullied repeatedly.
While walking home from school one day he was again confronted by his bullies who teased him relentlessly. “They took my money, pulled at me and took my bag from me, threw all my books out of my bag and over someone’s fence.
“This made me angry and ever since I have felt that I need to protect myself. I have been in a few fights but with the help of the programme at school I now think before I do or say anything, I breathe and try not to get so angry,” he said. *Sarah, whose child attends a school in Lotus River, has come forward saying that her son has also been both bullied and a bully. “My son who’s only in Grade 2 has been bullied since Grade R and because of it he has become aggressive and it is apparent at home and at school.
“I have to fetch him at school almost daily and every week because he lashes out. He has come home with a bruised eye and has been thrown with a scissor. My child is not an angel but I try to get him help and I have taken him for counselling,” she said.
Her advice to other parents whose children are either being bullied or who are bullies, is to get involved with their children.
“Many times the parents of the children who bully my son don’t pitch when the school calls a meeting. Parents need to be more involved so that issues can be resolved before they become a bigger problem.
Education MEC Debbie Schafer said the various reports of bullying both in the Western Cape and across the country were very disturbing. “Bullying and school safety in general are issues of great concern to me, and about which I exercise my mind regularly as to how best to address them. Respect for human dignity is one of the values enshrined in our constitution, and bullying is a denial of this. Any form of bullying can have dire consequences, and as schools, parents and educators, we have to respond accordingly and in a timeous manner.”
She encouraged teachers, parents and learners to report all school crime and abuse by calling their Safe Schools Call Centre for counselling and advice on 0800 45 46 47. Children can also call Childline SA on 0800 055 555.
“Parents are key to identifying behavioural changes in their children which could be as a result of being bullied. I therefore appeal to parents to keep an eye on their child’s behaviour. If your child seems withdrawn or angry, investigate the reason for these changes and speak to the class teacher immediately if the matter is school related,” said Ms Schafer.
There are also guidelines for how to deal with bullying on the WCED website at www.westerncape.gov.za/general-publication/bullying-school