Bullying in schools is unfortunately a worldwide problem. It may impact children not only physically but also psychologically. In South Africa many children fall victim to bullying, harassment and abuse at schools. A myriad of constitutional rights are infringed upon when bullying occurs. A 2012 UNISA study found that 34.4 % of a sample 3371 learners had experienced bullying. Emotional bullying is more prevalent, with 55.3% of learners falling victim to such bullying, 38.4% being physically victimised, 16.9% being tormented via social media and 2.8% being the victims of verbal bullying.
What is Bullying, precisely?
A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself.
Bullying, over time creates a pattern of victimisation, causing harm to a learner or their property through an emotional as well as at times, physical assault on the learner. The victim is controlled through fear, this negative behaviour disrupts the orderly function of school activity and creates a counterproductive learning environment, through this hostility.
While hard to spot, if your child exhibits signs of withdrawal from school activities, avoidance of social events they previously enjoyed, low self-esteem or being uncharacteristically upset after being online, it might well be worth considering bullying as the underlying cause.
It seems, bullies tend to gravitate toward acquiring an elevated status among their peers and crave the power that comes with that status. Through means of establishing dominance over other students, the bully can cause major damage to the victim, but also themselves through misconceived perceptions of power and importance. The shame felt by the victim, leads to continuation of the cycle.
Aren’t there laws against this?
There exists a variety of legislation surrounding the problem, while nothing specifically dealing with the issue. The Children’s Act, Protection from Harassment Act and Child Justice Act all may have application depending on the severity of the problem and the presence of criminal activity. We explore this framework and the remedies in terms of the law in a separate article.
What is Cyber Bullying?
Cyber-bullying is a particular phenomenon which takes place online, we have a more thorough discussion on this issue here. The approach is made more difficult by the anonymity which offenders can have through fake accounts, cat-fishing and very little consequences in the real world, but the emotional damage can be just as serious.