School safety

Beating around the bush

Protect your child
High school bullies
Parents often enroll their children into the best, affordable schools, with a disciplined culture and top academic achievements. The fact is, most of a child's growth as an individual and development of his/ her character, happens while at school. Interaction between him, his peers and teachers, all forms part of social development. 

A secure and solid foundation at home, could assist in the development of his self esteem and this could in turn protect him from the ails which have befallen our youth. Peer pressure and pressure from those outside of the school premises, could break down an already frail self esteem.

A recent study conducted by the Youth Research Unit of Unisa's Bureau of Market Research, shows that nearly 35% of learners in Gauteng schools have been bullied in the past two years. The research spans from 2011-2012, conducted on 3371 learners in Grade 8 to 12 in 24 Gauteng schools. The results show that 42% of this group is often found among Grade 8 learners and a third have had to deal with bullying throughout their secondary lives. A total of 1158 learners have been bullied within the past two years. 

"Although traditional forms of bullying were still prominent, the phenomenon of cyber bullying was rapidly emerging. This makes up 16.9% of bullying cases", said Goodness Zulu, a social worker at the Youth Research Unit in Unisa. Victimisation is taking a new form via use of technology. Online bullying has created a new set of problems.

Most learners refrain from discussing the situation with teachers or parents as they fear it might get worse. Some parents feel that the reason their children are being bullied is because they lack the assertiveness required to stand up for themselves. The problem with cyber bullying is that it continues after school hours, 24/7. Parents should keep the lines of communication open in order to help their children build self esteem. Parents should also speak to the teachers on a regular basis in order to pick up on any attitude adjustments.

Parents need to ensure continuous cyber safety and they need to educate their children on the dangers thereof. The department of Education aims to assess the impact of bullying within schools, as well as the overall functionality of schools.

"Online awareness campaigns and counselling services are recommended and binding guidelines on appropriate action to reported [incidents] need to be enhanced. Intervention strategies include early age-appropriate intervention programmes, appropriate reporting structures, and empowerment and proactive intervention strategies of child care practitioners," recommended the study.

The Head of Community Awareness and Prevention Programme Department at Childline, Gita Dannen, said bullying was frequently overlooked because teachers and parents were unaware that it was happening.
Those who bully then adapt a sense of normality and acceptance to their behavious as nothing is done about it. In return, students who are bullied remain in silent fear.

In prioritising the issue of bullying, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, in the State of the Province Address in 2011, announced that she had assigned 1 000 community volunteers to monitor, amongst others, incidents of bullying in schools.

Lay counsellors have been appointed to provide support to schools. Some counsellors hold violence prevention classes or workshops for learners, while some schools provide special programmes on preventing violence and gang activity for high-risk learners. Under the policy, patrollers are also provided for schools which can't afford to hire private security.
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