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Local celebs speak out on bullying in SA schools

With the movie 'Bully' making international headlines since its recent release in some parts of the world, the bullying phenomenon is creating a buzz.
Local celebs speak out on bullying in SA schools
For thousands of children, going to school is an absolute misery, a torture they can hardly talk about, and a battle they must go through daily. (Sunday Times Generation Next Survey's top Coolest TV Channel in SA) TV presenter Sthembiso 'SK' Khoza opened up to us about being bullied at school. "The bullies used to wait for me by the toilet and every time I wanted to use the restroom, they would tell me it was R1 to urinate and R2 for a number two. At first I kept quiet because I was scared of being beaten up after school."

Like many others, as a Grade 8 boy Khoza was subjected to being teased and taunted by some of the older kids.

A study done by Dr. Crystal Watson from MTR Children's Haven reveals that every seven minutes, on a South African school ground, a child or teenager is bullied. The chance of adult intervention is only four percent, student intervention 11%, while the chance of no intervention at all stands at 85%.

A closer look at the South African situation shows us why this is such a burning issue.

Bullying is a form habitual aggressive behaviour or the act of intimidating a weaker person to make them do something that makes them uncomfortable, or that they don't want to do.

Local celebs speak out on bullying in SA schools
"Many teens' hours at school are a living hell. And because it's often subversive - and increasingly digital - it is tough for teachers and parents to get a handle on it and sort it out," is the view of Jason Levin from youth marketing specialists, HDI Youth Marketeers.

"To all of those who are experiencing it at the moment, my advice to you would be SPEAK OUT and put a stop to it. I know that the bullies in the school threaten you about what they going to do if you tell on them, but trust me once the teachers know, they will not touch you," says Khoza.

According to Dr. Watson, over six million boys and four million girls are involved in physical fights every year on school grounds.

"Bullying to me is the lowest form of being a coward. A kids starts off as a bully, then lands up a racist or homophobe. It's the root of some of the world's biggest problems for me, and if we can kill it as it's beginning, we'll have a lot less older bullies in all sorts of sectors," says Siya 'Scoop' Ngwekazi, Vuzu presenter, reality star and Nike (voted Coolest Sports Store - 2011 Sunday Times Generation Next Survey) ambassador.

Editor of Seventeen magazine (voted runner-up for Coolest Magazine by female youth in the 2011 Sunday Times Generation Next Survey), Janine Jellars, adds, "Bullying isn't a new phenomenon - it really is as old as time. However, what makes bullying so terrifying in this day and age is the reach and impact and various 'new' platforms teens have at their disposal.

"These days, bullies can terrorise their targets online - whether by setting up Facebook and Twitter accounts to publicise their views about someone they dislike or send around MMS's, videos or pics of people. Just 10 years ago, we didn't have to deal with cyber-bullying. Today, it's pervasive. Those in positions of authority who are used to solving more traditional forms of bullying find themselves at a loss when dealing with these new phenomena."

For many parents, bullying in schools is something that is difficult to contain.

Local celebs speak out on bullying in SA schools
Children often don't tell their parents, scared that they'll only make things worse, or feeling hopeless in doing anything to change the situation.

It's difficult to address teen bullying, but there are some things that can help.

Children need to be encouraged to reach out to someone and speak out about their situation. This can mean confiding in a close and trusted friend, or reliable adult. It also helps to establish a group of friends, since bullies often single out loners.

Children also need to be told about groups like Childline where help can be found. Another useful tool for parents is knowing what the signs of bullying are.

Some include unexplainable injuries, lost or destroyed items, frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking being sick, changes in eating habits, trouble sleeping or regular nightmares; falling grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school, sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations.

Truth be told, not all children being targeted by bullies show signs (or even the same types of signs), and even more worrying, is the challenge for parents and care-givers to realise their child might actually be the bully.

The bottom line is that it's key for parents and educators to be aware of a child's state of mind. Children take the cue from parents, and the way that a parent deals with conflict rubs off on the child.

Local celebs speak out on bullying in SA schools
HDI Youth Marketeers - a purely youth focused marketing company that is heavily involved with South African schools - is in the process of establishing a platform aimed at addressing the rising bullying pandemic.

It would be interesting to consider which brands could contribute to the fight against bullying through partnering up with them, or creating similar projects.

As Oscar Wilde said, "The best way to make children good is to make them happy." Easier said than done in a country that has "bigger problems" to worry about, but something that has to be nipped in the bud if we are ever to dream of a better future.

The only hope of creating this better future has to start with kids and young adults, in a place where they are still bound by some sort of rules and authority.

"Kids and teens can be vicious. Part of the issue needs to be addressed by good parenting and guidance, but it has reached proportions where an intervention needs to be made to strike at the heart of the problem - the abusive teen. We want to help him/her understand both the consequences and root causes of their actions. The tone has to be pitch perfect though, or it could just raise awareness, and possibly even prevalence, of the practice," says Levin.

It's all a case of doing something before it's too late. Why not start with addressing bullying in schools..?

For more from Dr Watson, click here.

**Contact Childline on 0800 055 555.

24 Apr 2012 12:24