More school-based counsellors and early warning intervention programmes may help identify bullies and their victims, the National Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) has said in light of Lufuno Mavhunga being laid to rest at the weekend.
Family and friends gathered in Thohoyandou on Saturday for the 15-year old’s burial after she took her own life following a bullying incident.
Naptosa executive director Basil Manuel said there was a shortage of counsellors at schools which impacted on victim support structures. Some schools in the country had one counsellor for every 300 children, he said.
“Early warning intervention systems are also needed in order to provide support before it is too late.
“Social media management must also be part of the debate,” Manuel said.
Mavhunga was a Mbilwi Secondary School pupil who was attacked by another 15-year-old who has since been arrested and charged with assault.
A video of the incident was shared widely on social media, and she committed suicide soon after.
South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) provincial chairperson Jonovan Rustin said pupils who are bullying others needed behaviour modification programmes and therapy.
“We don’t want to put additional pressure on the schools, but they have a strategic role in talking about bullying so that we can stem this tide.
“We express our deepest sympathy to the learner who had passed away in Limpopo,” he said.
Western Cape Education Department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the Safe Schools Call Centre offers counselling support and advice to pupils and parents – as well as a mechanism for reporting bullying for further investigation.
Parents and pupils should first report such abuse to their teachers/ school management.
“It is important that the school management is aware of the allegations so that they can address it as soon as possible.
“Schools must address bullying, including cyber-bullying, in their school code of conduct.
“Disciplinary measures against learners who distribute, film or participate in events that put the school into disrepute or constitute abuse, assault or bullying – should be addressed,” she said.
To contact the Safe Schools Call Centre, the toll-free number is 0800 45 46 47. The toll-free line operates from Mondays to Fridays between 8 am and 7:30 pm.
Weekend calls are recorded and responded to on Monday mornings.
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