In 2019 my little cousin was bullied in school and the next day she tried to commit suicide. And it was not the first time she had been bullied, the first incident she was filmed.
In April 2021, Lufuno Mavhungo (15) was bullied and she committed suicide the next day. In March a grade 9 pupil from Sizwe primary school was stabbed to death. In February a group of Durban schools girls were filmed dragging and kicking a fellow pupil and the video went viral.
And there is a series of familiar stories of bullying in between these that may not have resulted in suicide, but have much impact on the victims. These are not just stories but real life experiences that these children carry to adulthood if they make it out alive.
Bullying is like every other traumatic violent crime. The only difference between other crimes and bullying is the consequence. Bullying is a violent act.
According to the stats by the Anti bullying programme, more than 3.2 million learners are bullied yearly in South Africa and these are only reported cases. More than 67% of bully victims will not ask a teacher for help because they don’t think it will change their situation.
Bullying is traumatic to both the victims and the bullies and to quickly dismiss the bullies is equally wrong. Statistics show that child bullies usually have experienced violence in their home between adults.
To the victims it is easier that they will either repeat that violence in their adulthood, struggle with confidence or turn to drug use and alcohol. Learners bunk school daily to avoid being bullied and some drop out. The psychological effects live with them for a long time. To Lufuno, her abuse did not just end in school premises but the video of her being humiliated went viral. Cyber bullying may also have contributed to her decision to take her own life. To be assaulted like that, publicly and on social media is too much for a 15 year old .
Although statistics show that 8% of bullying is done by teachers ,th ey too are also bullied by learners.
It is clear that Tougher legislation is needed in our country that deals with bullies and bullying should be treated just like any other crime.
On the same breathe schools need to create a room for psychological healing for learners.