Bullying has become a norm, pupils say

Pictured, back from left, are Anastacia Sass, Jody Van Rooyen, Shauna Herbert, Tristan Rosseau, Faizal Zass and Madeniyyah Fredericks. In front is Cassidy Arendse, kneeling is Kurt Madeira, Alicia Hess, Denae Trout.

Rocklands High School pupils took to the street to stop bullying in its tracks.

During the school’s week-long anti-bullying campaign grades picketed on different days, from Monday May 7 until Friday May 11, with posters they had painted in their spare time.

The programme culminated in a special assembly on Friday May 11, which included speeches by their head prefects Yamkela Mathontsiv and Denay Deal.

Yamkela said bullying was when someone used his or her power to take things from another person.

“This could be their belongings, their pride, their joy or harm them,” he said.

Denay said bullying had become a norm, which is why it could often not be identified: “There are many students and learners across the world that do not report for school out of fear of being bullied and others that believe the only way to get away from the harassment is to change schools, where they can start all over again.

“But why should these kids be the ones changing when bullies roam free all over the place.”

Denay said freedom of speech did not allow anyone the right to verbally abuse another person.

“The (use of) cruel words such as ugly, gay, fat, dumb, useless should stop. They are not true. You should know who you are, and you are not any of that,” she said.

Denay said words like beautiful, amazing, smart and love should be used instead.

“So, please, be careful with the words you say to someone else.

“What we think is funny and cool, could end up being powerfully hurtful,” she said.

Denay encouraged her fellow pupils to stand up for themselves and unite to stop bullying.

“We can help our generation get better and teach the world to be kind to each other and respect each other. The end of bullying starts with you,” she said.

She reminded pupils that they were loved and that they should share their difficult times with someone they trusted: “Showing emotion does not make you weak. It means you are human.”

Teacher Faranaz Mather told the Plainsman the campaign formed part of the work of the Western Cape Education Department’s (WCED) SLES (Specialised Learner and Educator Support) component to spearhead campaigns at schools.

The campaign aims to create awareness about bullying and highlights the negative effects of it on victims, as well as to foster good behaviour to combat this challenge.She said this year’s anti-bullying theme is HERO (Helping everyone respect others).

“We got information from the department asking us to embark on this campaign and we mobilised the matriculants and the head girl and boy were very active mobilising the pupils,” she said.

Ms Mather said it was important to sensitise pupils to the consequences of bullying, one of which was teen suicide.

“We needed to bring an awareness and instil in pupils a sense of care and understanding and look at a programme to help bullies,” she said.

Ms Mather said bullying was prevalent among older pupils who often picked on younger – particularly Grade 8 pupils – when they arrived at a new school.

The school now has a system in place which sees matriculants partnering with Grade 8 pupils, to show them around and help them adjust to being at high school.

She said bullying was a symptom of “deeper issues”.

“Bullies need to know that their actions could be criminal and could lead to them being arrested,” she said.

Her colleague Kevin Shaw said the campaign was all about prevention.

During the assembly the matriculants lit candles symbolising the flame of bullying, which was blown out by principal Nigel Pelston. The sharing of the lighting of the candle showed that each person has a role to play.

Mr Shaw said victims of bullying must speak out so that bullies could be dealt with.