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30 September 2020 | Story Nitha Ramnath | Photo Supplied
SWSA represented by Mariné du Toit (left) and Lyshea Mapaike(right) at the handover of the funds raised

Sunflower Children’s Hospice, situated on the ground floor of the National District Hospital, is a non-profit organisation that provides care and compassion for all children with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions. As far as possible, the hospice aims to keep children within their families and communities, with relevant supervision and support.  However, the hospice is also a permanent residence to many children.

At Sunflower Children’s Hospice, children and their families are provided with:
• palliative care, including pain and symptom management;
• quality of life;
• relief of suffering;
• support for child and family/guardians;
• developmental stimulation;
• support during the bereavement period;
• dignity in death;
• community participation; and
• relevant training.

Due to limited funds, the hospice experiences many financial challenges, which motivated the Social Work Student Association (SWSA) to become involved. Their involvement led to the establishment of the ‘#Adoptaflower’ project by raising funds for the organisation and getting more Social Work students to spend time with the children, as they do not have enough caregivers at the house to give them the special personal attention that they need.  This project was spearheaded by Mariné du Toit, Portfolio Head: Community Upliftment of the SWSA. 

The fundraising initiative collected R1 300 from selling raffle tickets to the university community.  Due to COVID-19 and the lockdown period, it became impossible to proceed with the intention of the Social Work students to spend more time with the children.  

Besides Social Work students not being able to proceed with their intention of interacting more closely with the children concerned, the lockdown unfortunately also affected it negatively in other areas.  The hospice needs assistance with clothes, toiletries, and groceries. Sunflower House therefore needs funds and sponsors to continue providing services to so many children in need of care and support. For more information regarding public involvement, 051 448 3813 is the number to call. 

News Archive

Inaugural lecture: Bullying in schools: Everyone’s problem

Bullebakkery in skole: Almal se probleem
Bullying in schools: Everyone’s problem
Intreerede, 1 Junie 2005
Inaugural lecture, 1 June 2005
Corene de Wet

1.  Inleiding
Leerders hoor dikwels dat hul ouers en opvoeders opmerkings soos die volgende maak:
Might is right. It is good to be able to dominate others. To be dominated by others is shameful. You should never complain about ill-treatment by others. You should learn to take it. You should never sympathise with wimps. To be gentle and compassionate is to be weak (Rigby 1996: 80).

Dié opmerkings, wat impliseer dat bullebakkery deel van die grootwordproses is, word deur volwassenes vir wie leerders lief is en respekteer, geuiter. Dit het tot gevolg dat bullebakkery as aanvaarbare gedrag voorgehou word. Bullebakkery maak egter inbreuk op die kind se reg tot menswaardigheid, privaatheid, vryheid en sekuriteit. Bullebakkery het ’n invloed op die slagoffer se fisieke, emosionele, sosiale en opvoedkundige welstand. Fisieke gevolge sluit die volgende in: hoofpyne, bednatmaak, verlies aan eetlus, swak liggaamshouding en maagprobleme. Bullebakkery kan tot die volgende emosionele probleme by slagoffers lei: depressie, selfmoordneigings en selfmoord, gespannenheid, vrees, asook gevoelens wat geassosieer word met Post Traumatiese Stres – verwardheid, angstigheid, woede en hartseer. Sosiale gevolge van bullebakkery is onder andere sosiale isolasie en eensaamheid, slagoffers het probleme om met ander kinders en volwassenes te meng, en is/word baie skaam. Opvoedkundige gevolge sluit die volgende in: slagoffers is baie afwesig, onttrek hulle van sosiale aktiwiteite by die skool, hulle is bang om vrae in die klas te vra, verlies aan konsentrasie, steek dit weg as hulle nie werk verstaan nie as gevolg van die vrees dat hulle gespot sal word en onderprestasie sodat hulle nie as té slim voorkom nie.

Bullying has various short- and long-term consequences for the bully. Although bullies are often popular in their peer group, they are seldom able to conclude real friendships. They rarely do well at school. Educators do not like them. Bullying is sometimes the first stepping stone to juvenile crime and criminal activities. The bully abuses alcohol and drugs more readily than other children. Some of them come to school armed. Bullies are often anti-social adults; some of them abuse their children, marriage or life partners. Roland (2002:62-65) found that not only victims but also bullies have suicide thoughts and symptoms of depression more regularly than learners who are not involved in bullying. Zeelie (2002:280) writes that bullying is a “loss experience”, a “loss of safety, loss of self-esteem (they bully you, then you bully yourself). Bullies experience a loss of belonging and lose control over their own life.”

 The aim of this lecture is to report, against the background of a literature study on data from two studies on bullying in Free State secondary schools. In both of these, questionnaires were answered anonymously and the data treated confidentially. The first study involved an investigation into a group of Free State learners’ perceptions and experiences of bullying in their respective schools. The second study concentrated on Free State educators’ experiences, observations and perceptions with regard to bullying.

2.  What is bullying?
Research on bullying in schools was conducted for the first time more than thirty years ago by Dan Olweus in Norway. From the literature review, it seems that bullying is a problem not only in Nordic countries, but also in among others the USA, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and Japan. Although research on bullying since the 1980s has led to various international publications, little has been published on the subject in South Africa.

Olweus (1994:9), the leading figure in research on bullying, defines bullying as follows: “a student is being bullied or victimized when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative action on the part of one or more students.” Olweus (1994:9) explains the term “negative action” as follows: “a negative action is when someone intentionally inflicts, or attempts to inflict injury or discomfort upon another”. A Dutch psychologist, Van der Meer (quoted by Limper 1998:1), gives the following definition: “Bullying is a systematic, psychological, physical or sexual act of violence by a pupil or a group of pupils with respect to one or more classmates, who are not (any longer) in a position to defend themselves.”

From the aforementioned definitions it is clear that bullying always includes the following three elements: the intentional use of aggression, an unbalanced relationship of power between the bully and the victim, and the causing of physical pain and/or emotional misery.

Although there are considerable similarities between bullying and other forms of aggression, bullying, according to De Haan (1997:1), has the following characteristics: the bully acts purposefully rather than accidentally. The aim of bullying is to get control over another person by means of physical or verbal aggression. Bullies attack without reason, except that they see victims as easy targets. Bullies are usually more popular among their peer group than children who are merely aggressive.

  The following common examples of bullying can be identified:
• Physical bullying includes punching, poking, strangling, hair pulling, beating, biting, excessive tickling and direct vandalism.
• Verbal bullying includes such acts as hurtful name-calling, persistent teasing, gossiping and racist remarks.
• Relational bullying occurs when the victim is deliberately excluded from activities.
• Emotional bullying includes terrorising, extorting, defaming, blackmailing, rating/ranking of personal characteristics such as race, disability or ethnicity, manipulating friendships, ostracising and peer pressure.
• Sexual bullying includes many of the above as well as exhibitionism, sexual positioning, sexual harassment and abuse involving actual physical contact and sexual assault.

3.   Die aard en omvang van leerderbullebakkery

   Die persepsie dat bullebakkery deel van die grootwordproses is, lei daartoe dat slagoffers onwillig is om hulle ouers en opvoeders te vertel dat hulle afgeknou word. Voorts blyk dit dat slagoffers weerwraak van die bullebak of selfs klasmaats, wat die onthulling as storieaandraery sal sien, vrees. Indien die afknouery erg is of oor ’n lang tydperk plaasvind, is die slagoffers bang dat dit hulle ouers sal ontstel, veral as hulle dink dat hulle ouers nie in staat sal wees om die situasie te verander nie. Kinders is soms onwillig om te erken dat hulle duur items of geld aan bullebakke gegee het. Ouers stel nie net akademiese nie, maar ook sosiale verwagtinge aan hulle kinders, gevolglik is geviktimiseerde kinders, wat verworpe en ongewild voel, onwillig om te erken dat hulle afgeknou word. Adolessente voel dikwels, in hulle strewe na groter onafhanklikheid, dat hulle in staat behoort te wees om die probleem self te hanteer. Voorts is die kind-ouer-/ leerder-opvoederverhouding gedurende adolessensie dikwels gespanne en is kommunikasiekanale nie na wense nie. Bullebakkery is soms so subtiel dat dit moeilik is om dit te verwoord. Daar bestaan voorts die siening by leerders dat opvoeders nie betrokke wil raak by bullebakkery nie.

Voorafvermelde faktore het tot gevolg dat baie ouers en opvoeders onbewus is van die vlakke van bullebakkery waaraan hulle kinders en/of leerders blootgestel word. Die volgende navorsingsresultate toon egter aan dat bullebakkery ‘n redelik algemene verskynsel in Vrystaatse skole is.

Vrystaatse leerders word die meeste aan direkte en die tweede meeste aan indirekte verbale teistering blootgestel. Slegs 29.2% van die leerders wat aan die navorsingsprojek deelgeneem het, was nog nooit aan direkte en 32.15% aan indirekte verbale teistering blootgestel nie. Byna die helfte van die leerders het aangedui dat hulle ten minste een keer per maand die slagoffers van direkte verbale teistering was. ‘n Relatief groot persentasie van die leerders (32.45%) is al deur mede-leerders te lyf gegaan; 11.21% van hulle is ten minste een keer per week deur mede-leerders geslaan en/of geskop, gestamp en/of op ’n ander wyse fisiek seergemaak. Direkte, fisieke aggressie is dan ook die derde mees algemene vorm van bullebakery waaraan die leerders blootgestel is.

Die plek waar die Vrystaatse leerders besonder weerloos teenoor bullebakke staan, is taxi’s. Hoewel slegs 31.86% van die respondente aangetoon het dat hulle met ’n taxi skool toe en terug pendel, beleef 29.64% van hierdié leerders taxi’s as óf baie onveilig óf redelik onveilig met betrekking tot bullebakkery. Die area op die skoolterrein waar die leerders die meeste aan bullebakkery blootgestel word, is die badkamers/toilette. Die area waar die meerderheid Vrystaatse leerders geborge voel, is hulle klaskamers – slegs 0.61% het aangetoon dat hulle “baie onveilig en bang” in hulle klaskamers voel; 59.55% het aangetoon dat hulle “baie veilig” daar voel.

From the research it is apparent that learners are usually bullied by members of the same gender. However, not only boys are guilty of physical harassment: several boys indicated that one or more girls injured them physically, a number of girls were injured by members of the same gender.  Some of the boys described in the open-ended question how they were kicked and beaten by other boys on a regular basis. One of them was kicked in the face regularly by his hostel roommate, he was too afraid to do something about it, because “his family was known for assaulting people”. Another boy mentions that the bullies regularly put sand in his mouth.

According to a grade 12 girl, learners are verbally bullied on a regular basis not only individually, but also as a group. She writes:

At our school there are these boys who are racists. They act mean against black people in our school. There is this particular group of boys in our Maths class. When the teacher is out they take a red pen and write on the projector and spray it with spirits. It looks like blood and they would say it is AIDS and my friends and I have it.

By contrast with the opinions of Banks (1997:1) and Olweus (1994:19, 23-25) that racial composition in schools does not influence bullying, it seems to play a role in some Free State schools, as is apparent from the above description. Besides this grade 12 girl, 25 respondents described explicitly racist incidents.

Slegs 4.91% van die opvoeder- en 16.22% van die leerderrespondente het aangetoon dat bullebakkery “glad nie” ‘n probleem by hulle onderskeie skole was nie. Dit moet gevolglik beklemtoon word dat opvoeders regsgeldig en moreel verplig is om dissipline te handhaaf en om te sien na die veiligheid van leerders wat aan hulle sorg toevertrou is. Volgens die Gedragskode van die Suid-Afrikaanse Raad vir Opvoeders (SACE s.a.:1) moet opvoeders alle redelike stappe neem om die veiligheid van leerders te verseker. Opvoeders moet ook kennis neem van Squelch (2000:53) se waarskuwing, naamlik dat skole bullebakkery nie as onbelangrik moet afmaak nie. Skoolhoofde of opvoeders kan aan nalatigheid skuldig bevind word indien bevind sou word dat hulle nie die nodige stappe geneem het om bullebakkery te voorkom en dissipline te handhaaf nie.
If victims of bullying are faced with school inaction, the criminal justice system should be considered. Police action should be seen as a last resort. It is therefore important for educators to honour their ‘in loco parentis’ obligations. It is thus encouraging to take note of the fact that 88.29% of the educator respondents indicated that they would intervene in cases of verbal bullying, while 89.71% of them would intervene if they saw learners being physically bullied. However, only 19.97% of the learners who were victims of bullying indicated that they were helped by educators or other adults from their respective schools.

Consistent with previous research, it was found in the present study that learners are reluctant to tell others, especially educators, that they are being victimised by bullies. Educators therefore need to acknowledge that they may have a credibility problem with many children when it comes to dealing satisfactorily with bully/victim problems. This can be remedied by demonstrating that educator intervention is much more likely to result in satisfactory outcomes for those learners they seek to help.  It is important that educator intervention does not make matters worse. This may require some educators to change their strategies. One promising strategy is to work closely with the learners who are prepared to cooperate with educators in countering bullying, for example by working with an anti-bullying committee of learners, who give support and credibility to the efforts of educators and counsellors.

Die bevindinge van die studie, wat lig werp op die gebrek aan vertroue by leerders in hulle opvoeders se vermoëns en/of bereidwilligheid om hulle by te staan in die stryd teen bullebakkery, het belangrike implikasies vir onderwyseropleidinginstellinge. Die belangrikheid van opleiding, hetsy aanvanklike of indiensopleiding, om opvoeders te bemagtig om bullebakkery te beveg, moet beklemtoon word. Opvoeders sukkel dikwels om te besluit of kinders besig is om mekaar af te knou, en of hulle slegs besig is om te speel en/of mekaar te terg. Die onvermoë van opvoeders om binne ‘n breukdeel van ‘n sekonde ‘n oordeel te vel, is een van die belangrikste redes waarom opvoeders dikwels nie bullebaksituasies in die kiem smoor nie. Voorts is daar ‘n persepsie onder sommige leerders dat opvoederintervensie die posisie van die slagoffer sal vererger. Opleiding is dus belangrik om opvoeders te help om ingeligte besluite te neem wanneer hulle konfliksituasies waarneem. Opleidingskursusse moet voornemende opvoeders met basiese beradingsvaardighede toerus sodat hulle in staat sal wees om die praktiese en emosionele aspekte van viktimisasie te hanteer.

 Attention will now be given to a topic that receives scant attention by researchers, namely, the fact that some learners bully their educators.

4.   Educator-targeted bullying

According to Pervin and Turner (1998:4) it could be argued that educator-targeted bullying and disruptive learner behaviour is the same thing. Fontana (1995:354) defines disruptive behaviour as “behaviour that proves unacceptable to the teacher”. Educator-targeted bullying can include the following: }

• Persistent, intentional, vigorous abuse of the educator.
• Swearing and/or mocking the educator.
• Knowingly ignoring the educator.
• Making personal comments about the educator.
• Damaging the educator’s property.

 Learners who indulge in educator-targeted bullying aim to undermine the educator’s confidence. In a study on educator-targeted bullying in Free State schools it was found that 24.85% of the respondents were physically abused by their learners, 33.44% were the victims of indirect verbal bullying, and 18.1% were at one time or another sexually harassed by their learners. These bullying actions should be seen as infringements of educators’ human rights (RSA 1996, art. 9-12), and in contravention of the Guidelines for the consideration of governing bodies in adopting of a code of conduct for learners (RSA, 1998: 11, 14). The aforementioned guidelines list the bullying of learners as one of the learner offences that may lead to either suspension or expulsion. Although these guidelines do not mention educator-targeted bullying, it could be argued that the forbidding of this, could mutatis mutandis be made applicable to educator-targeted bullying.
Pervin and Turner (1998:7) have found that victims of educator-targeted bullying have lowered their expectations (in terms of behaviour, co-operation and academic output) of learners who bully them. They warn that this lowered expectation may rub off on other learners who happen to be in the same class as the bullies. As a result of lowered educator expectations, classes containing learners who carry out educator-targeted bullying are less likely to be exposed to a variety of teaching methods, thereby reducing the scope for educators to carry out interesting lessons. Educators are reluctant to tell their colleagues that they are the targets of learner bullies. Educators who suffer from educator-targeted bullying should therefore be supported with some kind of mentoring system by their colleagues and principals. There should be an awareness among all role players – educators, principals, parents, learners and the Department of Education – that educator-targeted bullying does, in fact, take place. By raising awareness, it will be possible to improve morale in schools and reduce educator-targeted bullying. In their anti-bullying policies, schools should include a section on educator-targeted bullying, which may help to solve the problem.
However, educators are not the only victims of bullying; some of them are the bullies.

5.   Opvoeders wat leerders viktimiseer

Elke kind het die reg om onderwys in ‘n veilige skoolmilieu te ontvang. Hoewel dit opvoeders se verantwoordelikheid is om dié reg van leerders in stand te hou, blyk dit dat sommige opvoeders direk verantwoordelik gehou kan word vir die skending van kinderregte. Terwyl seksuele wangedrag deur diegene in gesagsposisies nog altyd ten sterkste afgekeur is, is dit nie altyd die geval met ander vorme van verbale en fisieke bullebakkery nie. Die geringskatting van dié vorm van opvoederwangedrag blyk uit die feit dat min bewyse in die literatuur gevind kon word oor navorsing wat handel oor opvoeders wat leerders treiter. Yoon (2004:38), Smith (2004:98) asook Parada, Marsh en Craven (2003:8) wys kripties daarop dat opvoeders wel hulle leerders kan afknou. Die feit dat geen verwysing na navorsing oor dié tipe bullebakkery in ‘n Suid-Afrikaanse konteks gevind kon word nie, beteken nie dat die Suid-Afrikaanse onderwysowerhede die tipe opvoederwangedrag goedkeur nie. Volgens die Suid-Afrikaanse Raad vir Opvoeders se Gedragskode (SACE s.a.:2) moet opvoeders

• Gesag met empatie uitoefen;
• Enige vorm van vernedering vermy, en hulleself van enige fisieke en psigologiese misbruike weerhou; en
• Hulle van seksuele teistering, hetsy fisiek of emosioneel, van leerders weerhou.

 Indien voorafgaande met die voorbeelde van wat bullebakkery is, vergelyk word, is die ooreenkomste duidelik. Daar kan dus gekonkludeer word dat die Suid-Afrikaanse Raad vir Opvoeders bullebakkery deur opvoeders verbied.
Individue is dikwels die beste bron van inligting oor hulle eie gedrag, want hulle weet waarom hulle sekere dade gepleeg het. Tog blyk dit dat selfevaluering, veral met betrekking tot aggressiewe gedrag, onderworpe is aan verskeie vooroordele – soos byvoorbeeld om ‘n sosiaal aanvaarbare antwoord te gee (Pakaslahti & Kelikangas-Järvinen 2000:178). Dit is dus kommerwekkend dat 55.83% van die opvoeders wat aan die navorsingsprojek deelgeneem het, aangedui het dat hulle al leerders verbaal geviktimiseer het; 50.31% van die respondente het aangedui dat hulle al leerders te lyf gegaan het. ‘n Klein persentasie van dié opvoeders, naamlik 6.13%, het genoem dat hulle ten minste een keer per maand skuldig was aan dade van seksuele teistering.

Sommige opvoeders is nie net direk nie, maar ook indirek verantwoordelik vir die teistering van leerders. Opvoeders sien dikwels sensitiwiteit en die negatiewe houding wat sommige leerders teenoor bullebakkery toon, as negatiewe karaktereienskappe. Opvoeders wat onverdraagsaamheid teenoor leerderslagoffers van bullebakkery se onvermoë om hulle situasie self te besleg toon, is instrumenteel in die vestiging van ‘n geweldskultuur in skole. Eerder as om sensitiwiteit en die vermoë om jouself van gewelddadige teenoptrede te weerhou as positiewe karaktereienskappe te beskou, word dit as die optrede van ‘n swakkeling afgemaak. Dié houding dra eerstens daartoe by dat leerders onwillig is om opvoeders in hulle vertroue te neem as hulle slagoffers van bullebakkery is. Tweedens kan dit gesien word as ‘n bevestiging van die wanpersepsie dat bullebakkery ‘n integrale deel van die grootwordproses  is.

6.   Concluding remarks

From this lecture, it has become evident that while some Free State educators and learners are the witnesses of incidences of bullying, others are the victims and/or perpetrators of direct and indirect verbal, as well as emotional, physical and sexual bullying. In a twenty-first century climate of increasing concern for the rights of individuals and groups, be they due to race, sex, disability, religion, or sexual orientation, the right of the learner to be educated, but also the right of the educator to educate without suffering from victimisation is entrenched in the South African Bill of Rights. Every educator and learner in South Africa has the right to life, equal protection and benefit of the law, of dignity, as well as of freedom and security of the person (RSA, 1996: art. 9-12). These rights will only be realised in a bully-free school milieu.

Om bullebakkery teen te werk is ’n omvattende anti-bullebakprogram, kollektiewe verantwoordelikheid en die vestiging van ’n omgeekultuur by skole en in die gemeenskap noodsaaklik. Onderwysowerhede, wetstoepassers, onderwysersopleidingsinstellings, opvoeders, ouers en leerders – die slagoffer, die bullebak en die klas- en/of skoolmaats (stille meerderheid) – is die belangrikste rolspelers in die stryd teen bullebakkery is. Dié rolspelers moet betrek word om -

• ’n bewustheid te skep oor die aard en omvang van bullebakkery;
• portuurgroepverhoudinge te verbeter;
• tussenbeide te tree om intimidasie te voorkom;
• duidelike reëls te ontwikkel om bullebakkery te voorkom; en
• (mede-)leerders en opvoeders te ondersteun en te beskerm.


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