Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behaviour amongst school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behaviour is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time.
Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems. To be considered bullying, the behaviour must be aggressive and include an imbalance of power (kids who bully use their power, such a physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or strength to access popularity to control or harm others).
Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people. In terms of repetition, bullying behaviours happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.
A study done in South Africa indicated that more than 3.2 million learners are bullied yearly. When asked, 52% of learners characterised bullying as an act of verbal abuse and 22% explains it as physical abuse in the form of pushing, hitting and beating. More than 67% of bully victims will not ask a teacher for help because they don’t think it will change their situation and 90% of school bullying is carried out by learners.
- 8% of school bullying is carried out by teachers.
- 4% of learners know someone who is being bullied.
The Western Cape has the most reported cases of bullying with over 18.5% of learners reporting acts of abuse.
- 160 000 high school learners bunk school daily to avoid being bullied.
- 1 in 10 learners drop out of school to avoid being bullied.
- 16% of learners admit that they are victims of cyberbullying.
Bullying can be defined as a desire to repeatedly hurt someone using words or violence. The desired effect is mostly to feel powerful or superior to the victim. (https://www.sfwerschools.co.za/bullying-facts-parents-should-know/ [Accessed 21 October 29019]/
The signs of bullying
Bullying can be identified by the following types of behaviour:
- deliberate aggression,
- an unbalanced power relationship between the bully and the victim, and the causing of physical pain and/or emotional anxiety
A bully can be identified by the following behaviours:
- they are aggressive and get into fights often
- they never take responsibility for their actions
- the causing of physical pain and/or emotional anxiety
The consequences of bullying:
- absenteeism and fear of attending school
- feelings of inferiority
- self-esteem problems
- feelings of loneliness
- social isolation
- emotional problems
- communication problems
- struggle to achieve academically
- some victims commit suicide
- rule-breaking and anti-social behaviour patterns
- risk of criminal behaviour later
Prevention of bullying
Once bullying has been identified it’s important to address the situation as soon as possible with the school, where appropriate measures and actions can be discussed and implemented.
The Western Cape Minister of Education Debbie Schäfer has urged parents and learners to report incidents of bullying. She said parents are key in identifying behavioural changes in their children.
The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has provided guidelines to schools on how to deal with bullying. Schools need to deal with the issue in line with codes of conduct and intervene appropriately to support the victim and to change the behaviour of the culprit.
Districts provide training and support on this issue as part of broader support on disciplinary issues. Teachers can use the following guidelines to prevent bullying:
- Provide a clear guideline for acceptable behaviour.
- Create class rules which state that bullying is unacceptable.
- All learners who are guilty of bullying should be called to account. It will send out a clear message that bullying will not be tolerated.
- It is, however, important that the focus shouldn’t be on punishment so much as on the changing of behaviour.