Pupils of Parkfields Primary School went home with a powerful message last week – that bullying is not acceptable and should not be tolerated or ignored.
This message echoed through the school as one of Childline South Africa’s training social workers, Nikita de Villiers, addressed pupils on Wednesday June 12.
The programme was part of a three-day anti-bullying awareness campaign at the school held from the previous Monday.
Pupils wore blue for forgiveness and red for love and made posters about bullying. They read out poems about bullying, and also performed a play which depicted a scenario of a child getting bullied and his lunch being stolen by the bullies.
Over the three days the grades learnt about the different types of bullying such as physical, mental, emotional and verbal.
Ms De Villiers said that victims of bullying often display loss of concentration, overwhelming fear, insecurity, and often cut themselves or hurt themselves intentionally.
“In order to prevent this you must tell somebody that you trust, you can report it to Childline. Try to ignore what the bully is telling you. If they are insulting you, walk away, and shout for help,” she said.
Principal Diana Williams said bullying was not a major issue at the school but it was important to address it.
She said because pupils play together it was important for them to know the difference between playing and bullying.
The campaign recognised national Child Protection Week which was commemorated from June 2 to June 9 and is marked every year to raise awareness around the importance of child protection.
Ms Williams said it was important for children to understand that they should speak up about bullying and that they should use their hands for kind acts such as helping and feeding and not fighting.
“This is not a once-off thing, our pupils need to be constantly reminded of this so they will sign an anti-bullying pledge in their classes which will go up on the wall and if bullying occurs their teacher will remind them about their pledge,” she said.
The pledge states that the pupil makes a commitment to take a stand against bullying, to treat others with respect and kindness, have the compassion not to be a bully and the courage not to be a bystander, and have a responsibility to report bulling and help those being bullied.
Ex-pupil of the school, Asheeqah de Vries, who grew up in Hanover Park and is now a nurse at Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital, discussed how bullying can affect one’s mental state.
She said the greatest consequence of being bullied is having constant fear and anxiety.
She said recognising a mental illness is just as important as recognising a physical one, not only in adults but in children too.
“Many people ignore a mental illness. Bullying makes you feel afraid, embarrassed and alone. You shouldn’t ignore it or make it go unnoticed. Some children are so badly affected that they want to stay out of school and their marks are affected and that is not okay,” she said.
To report bullying, call Childline on 08000 55555.