Raising awareness about bullying

Education MEC Debbie Schäfer speaks to Westridge High School pupils.

Westridge High School pupils were sensitised to the effects of recording video clips of bullying and sharing them on social media.

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) kick-started the 2019 “Raise your voice, not your phone” campaign, at the school on Wednesday February 20.

The anti-bullying campaign was launched in August to address the effects of bullying in schools.

The department has developed a toolkit to educate pupils and schools throughout the province, to raise their voices to speak out and not their phones to record bullying.

They encourage pupils to visit www.wcg-antibullying.co.za/ where they can view videos and answer questions about bullying.

The pupils were first shown the filming of a fake bullying incident in a school yard. It ends with the campaign message.

The pupils were then asked questions which led them to the realisation that other pupils were also participating in bullying by filming the incident rather than intervening to stop the abuse.

Campaign partner radio DJ Carl Wastie and master of ceremonies(MC) at the event said the purpose of the “roadshow” was to create awareness around bullying, particularly, the role every pupil could play when witnessing such incidents.

“There is a reason why some people are tall, short, some people have certain types of hair. Everyone is born with purpose. You look completely different from everyone else on this planet. It is because you are meant to be here. No one in this room is a mistake,” he said.

He said pupils did not have to find value anywhere else but within themselves.

Mr Wastie said pupils should use emotional intelligence to decide to use their energy to be confident and love themselves rather than think bullying would make them be better.

Ms Schäfer added: “We are all aware that bullying is happening at most schools in some shape or form. It can be verbal, physical, via a third party or through social media,” she said.

She said any pupil or parent of a pupil, who had gone through such abuse knew the pain and trauma it can bring. “It can lead to depression, anxiety, self-harming and
in some cases, even suicide,” she said.

She said the use of social media had heightened these risks. Pupils were now using various social media platforms to either tease, embarrass, intimidate or torment other pupils. “Once something is in cyberspace, it is there forever,” she said.

Ms Schäfer said the sad reality was that it involved thousands of pupils – who were either posting, sharing or re-tweeting videos, photos or messages that damaged the reputation or confidence of others.

A second video then popped up, which involved the participation of random pupils from schools across the metro, who were asked to participate in an interview.

A psychologist was asked to show each pupil the first video and a number of questions were posed thereafter. They were not briefed on the content. Their reactions were all real.

The video exposes how pupils do not necessarily understand the implications of filming or distributing content across social media, and how their actions are just as bad as those of the bully concerned.

The campaign also leads pupils to various pages of support or advice on how to intervene when bullying occurs.

Ms Schäfer said many cases of bullying went unreported and that the WCED was therefore not able to intervene. “It is therefore so important to run advocacy and awareness campaigns such as this regarding the dangers of bullying, and how to combat it,” she said.

“It is crucial that the rights of pupils are respected and protected and that learning environments are created where pupils can be free from abuse and make full use of their learning opportunities”.

To report bullying, call the national Safe School toll-free hotline number 0800 45 46 47, Monday to Friday, from 7.30am to 4pm.