Parents stand up against bullying

Parents of pupils at Hyacinth Primary School in Lentegeur protest outside the school in AZ Berman Drive after a 12-year-old Zimbabwean girl committed suicide, allegedly because of bullying at the school.

Furious parents protested outside Hyacinth Primary School in Lentegeur in the early hours of Tuesday March 14. They say that bullies at the school are not being dealt with appropriately.

Their fury came to a head after 12-year-old Zimbabwean pupil at the school allegedly hanged herself on Thursday February 23 due to bullying at the school. The Plainsman could not reach the girl’s family to confirm this.

Parents say bullying is an ongoing problem at the school and they feel the principal, Cedric Anyster, is not dealing with it adequately.

A concerned parent, who has a five and 11-year-old at the school and who did not want to be named, for fear of victimisation, said parents have requested a meeting with the principal about the bullying but were refused.

Parents then met together and decided to protest at the school until the issue was addressed.

A follow-up meeting is scheduled with the Western Cape Education Department, the principal and the Human Rights Commission, but no date has yet been confirmed.

Waafiqa White has a nine and 13-year-old at the school. She said her nine-year-old son has been complaining about a bully in his class since last year.

“He has been physically assaulted and grabbed by his shirt collar. He gets sworn at daily,” Ms White said.

She said her son’s teacher has since contacted her and set up a meeting to discuss the problem.

According to the other parent, there have been “lots” of complaints about bullying at the school.

“Lot’s of moms are going to the school with complaints of bullying but so far nothing has been done.”

Millicent Merton, spokeswoman for the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), said in the case of the pupil who committed suicide, the school received no reports of bullying from the pupil or the parent.

“Parents were also requested to report all incidents of bullying to the principal. If it is not resolved, they can report it to the district office. We are not aware of any incidents of bullying that was not dealt with by the school. We are also not aware of any incident of bullying at the school that was reported to the Human Rights Commission. The principal invited a group of parents to a meeting but they declined. The WCED views bullying in a very serious light and applies a range of measures to deal with the issue.”

Ms Merton said the WCED employs a variety of measures to address bullying, namely: education of its policies and procedures, training, support for victims, education on bullying and advocacy.

“The WCED has implemented a policy called ‘Abuse no More’ that provides guidelines to schools on dealing with any form of abuse, including bullying. The guidelines provide advice on reporting incidents of abuse, how to support victims and how to deal with perpetrators. Schools have to deal with bullying in terms of the codes of conduct. Bullying is regarded as serious misconduct, in terms of national guidelines and regulations published in terms of the South African Schools Act.

“The WCED has published extensive guidelines online on managing discipline at schools, including dealing with bullying,” she said.

Ms Merton added that its district offices work with schools and various partners to launch anti-bullying campaigns.

“Our Metro South Education District works with a range of partners to provide anti-bullying programmes at schools every year. The programmes reach about 120 schools of 215 schools in the district each year. The partners include the Quaker Peace Centre. The district organises an Anti-Bullying Week in May every year.

“The district also plans to launch an Anti-Bullying Charter in August this year after extensive consultation with schools.”