Beacon Hill High School in Beacon Valley has been in the spotlight after a video of two school girls fighting went viral on social media.
As a result, Beacon Hill was chosen to launch a campaign to address the effects of bullying in schools.
Singer, songwriter and winner of season 13 of Idols South Africa Paxton Fielies, radio DJ and TV presenter, Carl Wastie, Metro South District Director, Granville Stander and Education MEC Debbie Schäfer joined in on launching the campaign.
“I want you to take in what is being shared with you, and to use it where and when necessary. Share it with your other friends in the area and also empower them and yourselves,” said Gregory Kannemeyer, the principal of Beacon Hill High School.
Sharing his experiences, Mr Wastie said he had been nervous about going to high school — and felt he stood out because he was so short.
“My parents bought me a blazer saying I will grow into it later on.
“In high school people will identify things about you, and the things that make you unique which you will only learn a bit later,” he said.
“Me being a short person at that stage in my life made me think there was something wrong with me. As I grew into realising who I am, that is when the real magic happened for me.
“Me being short made me realise I was unique. Unless you’re a twin, you’re the only one in the world that makes you unique,” he added.
The campaign, which starts with the filming of a fake bullying incident in a school yard, ends with the simple message: “Raise your voice, not your phone.”
The aim is to discourage pupils from indirectly participating in the bullying by filming the incidents.
A second video was then created which involved the participation of 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 are all real,” said Ms Schäfer.
The video exposes how pupils don’t 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.
“It is a powerful message that not only reveals the pain one can cause, but also the pain that many have suffered. The campaign also leads learners to various pages of support or advice on how to intervene when bullying occurs,” said Ms Schäfer.
“We are all aware that bullying is happening at most schools in some shape or form. It can be verbal, physical or via a third party through social media.
“Any learner or parent of a learner who has gone through such abuse knows the pain and trauma it can bring. It can lead to depression, anxiety, self-harming and in some cases, even suicide.
“The use of social media has heightened these risks. Learners are now using various social media platforms to either tease, embarrass, intimidate or torment other learners.
“The sad reality is that it involves thousands of learners – who are either posting, sharing, or re-tweeting videos, photos or messages that damage the reputation or confidence of others.
“With many of the incidents filmed and shared on social media for their friends to see, learners don’t realise you don’t need to beat somebody up to be a bully. We needed a way to help learners realise it for themselves.”
The campaign also provides tips on what one can do to help victims of bullying.
Voicing her support for the campaign, Ms Fielies said: “People say the ugliest things and what do we do? We share it, we retweet it, and we basically broadcast it to everybody. We make it our business and you guys would know, when fights break out at school, what is the first thing we do? We take out our phones to film it instead of breaking up the fight.
“When I see videos being sent around of people saying they are going to beat someone up, it actually sickens me because as much as that person is the bully, we are giving such things attention which makes us bullies too.
“I think we should stop advertising things like that and start reporting it because it’s not okay. Bullies have a way of making us devalue ourselves and making us think we’re worth nothing.
“Up until this day I still get rude messages and comments thrown at me but now, the only difference is, I choose faith over fear.
“The place you are at in life might not be the same as others, but that’s okay and it’s okay to be yourself and do things for yourself. And remember that you are enough.”