Bullying is one of the biggest challenges school children face on a daily basis.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga revealed last week that South African learners are the most bullied in the world.
She based her comments on an international assessment report that also found that children who are bullied do not perform well in school because they are depressed and have low self-esteem.
A 2013 study by Pondering Panda found that over 50% of school children in South Africa are bullied at school.
School bullying came under the spotlight in 2016 after several videos surfaced of children being beaten up by their peers.
One Facebook video showed a high school pupil from Werda School in Hillary, Durban, being viciously beaten by another pupil while he begged to be let go.
Just months after the incident, two videos surfaced showing girls being bullied at Lückhoff High School in Idas Valley in Stellenbosch.
There are a number of reasons why your child might not tell you when he or she is being bullied.
For one, they may be feeling embarrassed, secondly, they may be feeling like a failure, or may feel telling you might cause more harm than good, as you might go to his school and confront the bully.
If your child is not forthcoming with information, there are signs you can look out for to see if your child is being bullied, and address the situation from there.
Bruises or injuries
If your child comes home with physical bruises or injuries that they cannot explain, chances are, they are being bullied at school.
If they gave you an explanation, but you suspect they are lying, wait and see if they keep getting more bruises or injuries, and take note of how the bruises look. If you suspect they are from being beaten up or being thrown to the ground, it is a good idea to go to their school and ask teachers to keep an eye on any bullying that may be going on around them.
Making excuses for not going to school
If your child used to like going to school, but all of a sudden gives excuses for not wanting to go, and the reason has nothing to do with them falling behind in class, it may mean a bully is in the picture.
Sudden drop in grades
If your child's grades drop drastically without any explanation, that could be a sign that they are being disturbed at school or finding it hard to concentrate due to being bullied. Speak to his teacher and hear what they have to say is causing the dip in form, and if the teacher also has no explanation, it may mean they are being bullied.
If your child is coming home with one sock, a missing jersey, no lunch box, or reports mysteriously losing possessions, it could be that the bully is taking their possessions.
Coming home hungry
If you give your child pocket money for lunch or a lunch box and they always complain of hunger when they get home, it may mean that the bully is eating the food or taking their money. Try packing a little bit more lunch and see if they still complain of hunger. If they still do, ask where the food goes to and if they can't say, know that you may be feeding their bully.
Having nightmares or difficulty sleeping
If your child is having nightmares or difficulty sleeping, it may be a sign that they feel their life is in danger because of being bullied at school. Another sign to look out for is when they start wetting the bed.
How to go about finding a solution?
The first step to take when your child is being bullied is to report the bullying at your child’s school. Most schools have ways of dealing with bullies; some may even expel the bully. However, if the bullying involves crime, you may need to report it to police. There are also organisations that deal with bullying. Search for them online and find which one works best for you.
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