Since the exposure of initiation rituals at Parktown Boys’ High and Pinetown Boys’ High, media have been giving more attention to stories on bullying and the causes and effects of such behavior. Two articles to be GLAD of, for shedding light on bullying, are The Star’s “School bullies can scar you for life” (24/06/09, p. 17) by Latoya Newman and Sunday Times’ “An abuser behind almost every bully” (28/06/09, Review, p.7) by Bienne Huisman.
The first article stands out for having accessed a wide variety of experts and looking at gender differences and developments in bullying. It looks at these developments in the context of the advent of social networking sites, cell phones and the internet.
A problem that is highlighted throughout the article is the limited quality of supervision of pupils and how bullying often happens unbeknown to teachers and parents. It also shows how even when bullies and victims are identified, school governing bodies are limited in the actions they can take to deal with bullies.
The article identifies steps to addressing bullying at school, in bullet point form, and comes with guidelines and tips for parents to spot when a child is being bullied.
It lists the long term impact bullying can have on the victims, details the experience of a survivor of bullying, given the pseudonym John, who still lives with the lasting effects.
In addition, the article shows how bullying can lead to dramatic retribution by the victim, using the case of Morné Harmse who killed a pupil after reportedly having been bullied for years.
The photograph in the article of Morné could have been left out, since it does not add to the article’s essence.
The article in Sunday Times looks at a documentary called ‘Lunchbox Bullies’ made by Nadiva Schraibman, who herself was a victim of bullying.
It looks at the perpetrators of bullying and the dynamics involved. It shows how a lack of parental care and love and failure to meet children’s rights, as set out in Section 28 of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, can detrimentally affect children and their behavior towards others, and contribute to bullying behavior.
The article speaks of one of the children featured in the documentary, a 12-year old boy, who gives a human face to bullies and shows how the causes behind bullying are complex. He was reprimanded for stealing lunch boxes and beating a young girl. In the course of the documentary it becomes clear that in his school a lunch box is a status symbol, which signifies that you are loved by your parents. The article suggests that his bullying behaviour was caused by his mother not feeding or showing love for him.
The article sources various experts, and includes tips for parents on how to deal with and prevent their children being bullied.
One area of the article that could be problematic is that the first name1 of the 12-year old boy, and his school, is provided in the article, which would have been used in the documentary. There is no indication that this is a pseudonym.
Identifying the child may not be in his best interests, particularly given his personal circumstances, whereby the alleged neglect by his mother could constitute child abuse. It is difficult to judge this without having seen the documentary. While the children’s identities may have been shown in the documentary, Sunday Times could have made the choice to protect the children’s identities.
For the 12-year old boy, the airing of the documentary on SABC may have given him a way out since a viewer offered to foster him. However, this still may have happened had his identity been protected
Both The Star and Sunday Times are to be commended for their coverage of bullying in its various aspects.
1 MMA has concealed names in the article to protect the boy’s identity.