The Unknown War in South African Schools.

Imagine living in a world where your kids cannot safely go to school. It is far from most people’s minds yet it is a reality for so many throughout the world. We in most parts of Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, don’t have to worry about that but for some in South Africa, it is a sad reality.Let me first give some background on where this story started from:

A few months back, an article came across my news feed called ‘Chase’s Teacher’. It was part of a blog by a woman named Glennon Doyle Melton in her blog titled ‘Momastery’. Here’s the problem though, I clicked on it, read it and shared it and afterwards it looked like I had written it. What I mean is, I paid no heed when sharing it; it wasn’t credited to anyone when it came on my news feed, anyway when I shared it and was notified someone else had shared it, it had my name written at the top of it. I mentioned it to my husband at the time but honestly gave it no further thought, thinking it wouldn’t go far and people would know it wasn’t my writing because on the most obvious level, I don’t have a son called Chase, I also didn’t expect it to go viral in South Africa.

 

 Last week, I started getting a number of friend requests from people in South Africa; I couldn’t for the life of me, work out why. I looked at these people as they friend requested me and realized they were all honest-to-goodness real people, not some sort of scam. I googled my name but nothing came up, I upped my privacy buttons on Facebook friend requests and left it at that, until I received a private message from a lady begging me for help. Her message read:

 

“Morning from cape town. I just came across your post about “chase’s teacher” and I would like to share it please. This is my son, (the name and photo of her son, I have kept private). He is six and gets bullied for being kind. After many fruitless trips to the school and him receiving death threats, I would love to start an online platform where we share experiences and support and your post is one of the few with practical solutions. Please consider my request. Kind regards”

 

I am a mother, this message broke my heart. I also realized that this must in some way be linked to the friend requests I had been getting from South Africa. I responded to her message by saying I think she has me confused with someone else and that I would love to help her but I don’t know what article she’s talking about. The dialogue went back and forth until I finally realized it was this woman named Glennon whose article she was referring to. What a terrible person I was taking credit for her hard work, even if quite by accident. I have since shared her name with my new South African friend and I hope she will be in touch with her, but I too have vowed to assist in any way I can, starting with this blog.

 

Bullying. It is something that has come to light over the last few years and something that is quite possibly shoved in our faces for anything and everything, particularly in the USA. It is an excuse for everything, unfortunately though, when it is really happening, it is not taken as seriously as it should be. I think the media in the States has overused the word bullying. It is a serious word. And this situation is so serious, it can be deadly.

I am talking about a woman who purchased a house in a nice area because of the school district, a woman who knows that in most schools in South Africa, there are major problems, but a mother who wanted to give her children the best she possibly could so she stretched everything to be able to move there yet found the problems were no better even in the ‘wealthier’ school districts. This blog is about this huge problem in South African schools that no one is doing enough about. About a girl who was 6 years old and told to cover up because there were 8 known sexual predators in mental interventions in her class. About children having their earrings ripped out of their ears; children being bitten, shaken and pushed. About an eight year old boy who was thrown off a balcony in November of last year by a fellow eight year old pupil. The boy, Faidh Jacobs, suffered a cracked skull with internal bleeding, yet I can find no further articles on the punishment of the pupil who did this to him! How can that be? About a father who was banned from entering his daughter’s school by the High Court in Pretoria without prior arrangement because he protested outside of the school after she had been the subject of victimization and bullying to such great extremes that she no longer wanted to go to school. The father said the school wasn’t serious about investigating and stopping the bullying happening to many students and his only action was to protest with banners and pamphlets outside of the school. The school of course denies this, but to me, the fact that a father had to resort to such extreme measures to be taken seriously, speaks volumes about the bigger issues going on.

 

The South African Schools Act of 1996 states that all schools must adopt a Code of Conduct to which all learners must comply. Included in this Code of Conduct should be the school’s policy on bullying yet it seems that so many parents have complained to teachers and to school principals with no further action being done because they are either too scared themselves or don’t want to believe there is a real problem. So much is being pushed under the rug in South Africa and until someone starts standing up for these kids, nothing is going to change.

There is some hope however; a young girl named Kelly Gibson was bullied after she wouldn’t take part in an initiation ritual which included running across a beach naked. She went from being a popular, sporty student, to a girl who was consistently victimised. Like my South African friend also mentioned as being a regular occurrence, her belongings were stolen, they even set up a Facebook group against her. Kelly’s Mum eventually moved her to a different school as the abuse got so bad, but Kelly is now speaking up against bullying and has started her own website at:

http://www.respectme.co.za

To my South African friend I say this; the article Ms Melton wrote is incredible. Chase’s teacher is incredible. What a wonderful way to ensure no one is being mistreated, to engage every student, and to ensure bullying is not happening in your classroom. This is a far more proactive way to stop bullying in the classroom, it needs to start from an early age and it needs to be practical. What a great way to monitor the health and well-being of your students and what another great burden to throw on our poorly-paid teachers. This is where it needs to be a societal effort. This mother in Cape Town is suffering because her little boy is suffering and if she doesn’t do something soon, the kindness he is being bullied for, will leave; we can all only tolerate so much. I don’t have the answers, all I can do is make some suggestions, judging by the number of people who tried to friend request me and the number of published stories in South African newspapers, you are not alone with your son’s plight. And you are doing the right thing by wanting to band together with other Mums, bringing a complete halt to this abhorrent behavior.

 

If you have any ideas or real life examples that have worked in similar situations, please share them here so we can ensure bullying is not just an overused word but is realized as a real-life problem that needs to be eradicated! 

 

For the original article titled ‘Chase’s Teacher’, please visit: http://momastery.com/blog/2014/01/30/share-schools/

 

For help in South Africa

Call Childline 0800 055 555 or visit

http://www.childlinesa.org.za

Also, there is a great article on the subject of bullying in South Africa at http://www.childmag.co.za/content/bullying which has a link to download anti-bullying guidelines.

One more thing, Ms Glennon Doyle Melton, please accept my sincerest apologies- I had no intent to claim your incredible article as my own.

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