Downloaded by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris At 20:49 26 May 2019 (PT) International Journal of Educational Management
Managing bullying in South African secondary schools: a case study
Gertruida Maria Steyn, Gunam Dolan Singh,
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Managing bullying in South African Managing
secondary schools: a case study
Gertruida Maria Steyn and Gunam Dolan Singh 1029
Department of Educational Leadership and Management,
University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Abstract Received 18 September 2017
Accepted 9 November 2017
Purpose – The high prevalence of bullying in South African schools in recent times is a cause for serious
Downloaded by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris At 20:49 26 May 2019 (PT) concern. Bullying is traumatic and has a painful, corrosive and damaging impact on children, families and
society. Hence, curbing the problem before it spirals out of control in secondary schools requires immediate
urgent attention from all stakeholders of the school. The purpose of this paper is to report on part of the
investigation done for a doctoral thesis (Singh, 2016), which looked at the factors contributing to bullying
perpetration in secondary schools and on the basis of the findings, recommend a model that may be used to
curb bullying in secondary schools. A qualitative research design was used to investigate the problem
through an interview process with participants from secondary schools, as well as a circuit manager from the
Uthungulu district of KwaZulu-Natal. The findings confirmed that the problem of bullying emanated at the
level of the family, the school and the community. The paper concludes with the provision of a model to
manage and curb bullying in these secondary schools.
Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative research approach, in particular a case study design, was
selected to give a clear understanding of participants’ views and experiences ( Johnson and Christensen, 2011;
Mason, 2013). The design involved a social constructivist paradigm, which was primarily concerned with
meaning and understanding people’s “lived experiences” and “inner-worlds” in the context of the conditions
and circumstances of their lives, which in this particular instance was bullying in secondary schools,
occurring within a social context, which was the school ( Johnson and Christensen, 2011). Purposeful sampling
was used to identify five secondary schools in the Uthungulu district of KwaZulu-Natal where the problem of
bullying was most prevalent principals at circuit and district-level meetings complained about the high
incidence of bullying perpetration in their schools.
Findings – This paper highlights the findings in respect of the factors contributing to bullying perpetration
in schools and presents a management model to curb bullying in secondary schools in KwaZulu-Natal.
Factors contributing to bullying: the findings from the empirical investigation avowed that the three key
factors contributing significantly to bullying behaviour are located at the level of the family, the school and
the community. First, influence at family level: “60–70 per cent of our learners come from broken homes”.
An overwhelming majority of participants in all five secondary schools attributed the escalation of bullying in
schools directly to the influence at the family level. Broken homes, poor upbringing, the absence of positive
role models and the influence of media violence on learners have had a negative impact on the culture of
discipline, teaching and learning in the classroom and the general ethos of schools. Second, influence at school
level: “the foremost problem here is peer pressure”. An overwhelming number of participants identified
several factors at the school level that contributed to bullying in secondary schools. Learner 3 (School A)
highlighted the problem of peer pressure and the need to belong to a group as a critical factor in advancing
bullying in schools. Third, influence at community level: “they come from that violent environment”.
Participants explained that the absence of after-school programmes and a lack of facilities, particularly in
rural communities, misdirected youngsters into engaging in other destructive vices such as forming gangs
and indulging in drugs and alcohol, to keep themselves occupied.
Originality/value – Various studies have been conducted in South Africa to understand the phenomenon of
bullying and violence in South African schools. While the current body of research highlights the problem of
bullying in schools and provides some guidelines on what measures may be adopted to address the problem,
the suggested methods are not effective enough, resulting in the problem continuing unabated. This study
therefore suggests a model to manage and curb bullying in secondary schools in South Africa.
Keywords South Africa, Violence, Aggression
Paper type Research paper
Introduction International Journal of
Research into bullying in schools has received considerable attention among international Educational Management
scholars (Kousholt and Fisker, 2015; Smit and Sherman, 2016; Ansary et al., 2015; Austin
et al., 2016; Vahedi et al., 2016). Bullying behaviour occurs when there is intent to harm Vol. 32 No. 6, 2018
© Emerald Publishing Limited
IJEM (the perpetrator finds pleasure in the taunting and continues even when the target’s distress
32,6 is obvious), there is abuse of power (the abuser maintains power over the target because of
age, strength, authority and or gender) and when the target is vulnerable and unsupported
1030 (Fried and Sosland, 2011; Ncontsa and Shumba, 2013; Makou and Bourdin, 2017; Nthate,
2017). It is a combination of verbal and physical aggression directed from the agent towards
Downloaded by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris At 20:49 26 May 2019 (PT) the victim (Ngakane et al., 2012).
The scourge of bullying and violence in South African schools has been a cause of great
concern. Numerous reports in newspapers and social media indicate the high levels and
severity of such incidents in schools (Makou and Bourdin, 2017; Nthate, 2017). Enshrined in
The Bill of Rights (Chapter 2:24a) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa is the
provision of a safe environment for all citizens. The Constitution of the Republic of
South Africa No. 108 of 1996 also states in Section 12(e) that “everyone has the right not to
be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way”. Importantly, bullying is in
direct contravention of the rights accorded to children in terms of Section 28(d) of the
Constitution of South Africa, which states that “every child has a right to be protected from
maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation”.
Despite these legal provisions, school violence continues to escalate at an
alarming rate in a number of schools throughout South Africa, severely compromising
the safety and well-being of both learners and teachers (Mestry et al., 2006; Ncontsa and
Shumba, 2013). Bullies are wreaking havoc in schools, making the school environment
completely unsafe and instilling fear by obstinately pursuing vulnerable victims
(Vahedi et al., 2016).
Various studies have been conducted in South Africa to understand the phenomenon
of bullying and violence in South African schools. Mncube and Harber (2013) explored
the dynamics of violence in South African Schools while Ramorola and Joyce (2014)
investigated the links between school violence and drug usage in schools. Mestry et al.
(2006) studied bystander behaviour of school children observing bullying, Singh (2013,
2016) investigated the strategies to address learner aggression in rural South African
secondary schools, and Joyce and Mmankoko (2014) explored teacher attitudes,
professionalism and unprofessionalism in relation to school violence. Furthermore,
Maphalala (2014) investigated the consequences of school violence for female learners, while
Maphalala and Mabunda (2014) delved into the internal and external factors associated with
school violence in Western Cape high schools. While the current body of research highlights
the problem of bullying in schools and provides some guidelines on what measures may be
adopted to address the problem, the suggested methods are not effective enough, resulting
in the problem continuing unabated.
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education, for example, described the bullying and
revenge attacks that took place at Mzamo High School in Blaauwbosch near Newcastle as
absolutely shocking and a huge concern for the Department (Nair, 2013). Learners sought
revenge with dangerous weapons such as knives, while the use of guns to settle scores has
gained momentum in many KwaZulu-Natal schools (Mlambo, 2015; Nair, 2013; Naran, 2013;
Regchand, 2015). Worse still, a murder and a suicide at an Empangeni High School have
reignited the debate whether more stringent security measures should be introduced at
schools, when a grade 12 learner at the Qantayi High School reportedly shot and killed
another learner and then turned the gun on himself ( Jansen, 2015). The Uthungulu
district, in which this research is being conducted, is made up of mainly rural schools that
serve predominantly underprivileged children. Evidence from observations made by
principals and teachers in these schools suggest that bullying is one of the most, if not the
most, pervasive problems currently faced in schools. Consequently, an urgent need for
developing a management model to curb bullying significantly in secondary schools in the
Uthungulu district was required.
Downloaded by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris At 20:49 26 May 2019 (PT) Theoretical framework Managing
Different theories served as lenses for this study on bullying in schools. One of the bullying
theories that give a profound insight into why children bully is the attachment theory. 1031
According to Ainsworth (1991), the attachment theory advocates that attachments formed
with the primary caregiver, as infants, determined a child’s proclivity for deviant Table I.
behaviour later in life (Williams, 2011). This attachment could be secure or insecure, School details
depending on the quality of early interactions with the caregiver. Securely attached
infants tended to have better outcomes in their cognitive and social development than
insecurely attached infants. Importantly, the insecure attachment may result in an
individual responding to others with higher than expected levels of hostility and
aggression (Monks et al., 2009).
Another lens that provided valuable explanations for bullying perpetration among
adolescents in secondary schools was the social learning theory. Albert Bandura’s (1973)
social learning theory explains that behaviour was continued, mimicked or modelled if it
was reinforced, or if behaviour escaped punishment. According to this theory, children
learn appropriate and inappropriate interactions through observing significant others in
their environments. Closely related to the social learning theory is the differential
association theory, which postulates that coercive and criminal behaviour is primarily
learnt from close associates such as family and peers who approve of criminal or illegal
behaviour (Cressy, 1954).
The homophily theory (Cairns et al., 1988), as last lens, advocates that learners in late
elementary school through early high school tend to befriend peers who are similar to them
in attitudes, interests and behaviours. The theory emphasises that individuals within the
same friendship group tended to report engaging in similar levels of bullying behaviours
and that peer groups form based on similarities in propinquity, sex and race and groups
tend to be similar with regard to behavioural dimensions (Espelage et al., 2008). Therefore,
adolescents who engage in negative behaviour are attracted to similar peers and these peers
will further reinforce negative attitudes and behaviour in each other (Espelage et al., 2008;
Swearer et al., 2009).
A qualitative research approach, in particular a case study design, was selected to give a
clear understanding of participants’ views and experiences ( Johnson and Christensen, 2011;
Mason, 2013). The design involved a social constructivist paradigm, which was primarily
concerned with meaning and understanding people’s “lived experiences” and “inner-worlds”
in the context of the conditions and circumstances of their lives, which in this particular
instance was bullying in secondary schools, occurring within a social context, which was the
school ( Johnson and Christensen, 2011).
Purposeful sampling was used to identify five secondary schools in the Uthungulu
district of KwaZulu-Natal where the problem of bullying was most prevalent (see Table I).
It was in these secondary schools that these principals at circuit- and district-level meetings
complained about the high incidence of bullying perpetration in their schools.
School name School type Area Number of students Teacher numbers
School A Secondary Semi-rural 1,100 34
School B Secondary Semi-rural 741 26
School C Secondary Semi-rural 560 23
School D Secondary Rural 317 14
School E Secondary Rural 213 12
IJEM To ensure trustworthiness of the study (Mason, 2013), various in-depth interviews were
32,6 conducted at each of the five schools: first, individual interviews with the principals who
provided a management perspective; second, focus group interviews with four school
1032 management team (SMT) members who similarly provided a management perspective;
third, focus group interviews with eight teachers provided a teacher perspective; fourth,
Downloaded by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris At 20:49 26 May 2019 (PT) focus group interviews with eight learners from the representative council of learners who
provided a learner perspective; and fifth, an individual interview with the circuit manager
from the circuit who provided a circuit perspective. The interview questions, which
attempted to maximise the extraction of information-rich data from the participants,
focussed on the characteristics of bullies in schools, the underlying causes of bullying, the
negative outcomes of bullying and the strategies that need to be employed to curb the
problem. All interviews were recorded and transcribed after which member checking was
done to ensure accuracy of the data. In the data analysis process, a system of coding was
used to reduce the large quantity of descriptive information gathered, that was then
organised through three scanning processes into categories and subcategories from which
the main themes were generated (Mason, 2013).
For the sake of a morally justifiable ethical code of conduct, permission was obtained
from the Research Directorate of the Department of Education (KwaZulu-Natal Province),
the University of South Africa, and the five principals of the schools to conduct the
investigation before the start of the study (Creswell, 2013). Likewise, informed consents
from all participants were obtained after having informed them of its purpose, the procedure
to be followed, the risks, benefits, alternate procedures and the measures to be implemented
to ensure confidentiality ( Johnson and Christensen, 2011).
This paper highlights the findings in respect of the factors contributing to bullying
perpetration in schools and presents a management model to curb bullying in secondary
schools in KwaZulu-Natal.
Factors contributing to bullying
The findings from the empirical investigation avowed that the three key factors
contributing significantly to bullying behaviour are located at the level of the family, the
school and the community.
Influence at family level: “60–70 per cent of our learners come from broken homes”
An overwhelming majority of participants in all five secondary schools attributed the
escalation of bullying in schools directly to the influence at the family level. Broken homes,
poor upbringing, the absence of positive role models and the influence of media violence on
learners have had a negative impact on the culture of discipline, teaching and learning in the
classroom and the general ethos of schools.
The data revealed that most learners who exhibited aggressive bullying behaviour came
from broken homes. Most SMTs believed that the child’s family background contributed
significantly to the behaviour problems displayed at schools.
SMT 1 (School B) stated that the problem stems from home:
The socio-economic factor […] it is rife in our school […] 60% to 70% of our learners come from
broken homes […] and when they come to school you find that some of our learners cannot afford
to dress as they are expected to dress […] and you find that learners in the class are always passing
remarks, they will laugh […] make jokes and always talk about that learner.
In addition to broken homes, poor upbringing of children and lack of control by parents,
unable to instil proper discipline affected learners’ belligerent bullying behaviour in schools.
Principal (School C), for example, stated that students who bullied others came “from the Managing
environment where there is no discipline”. bullying
Teacher 4 (School B) lamented the little time parents spent with their children; “they 1033
[parents] come home tired” and do not know how to deal with their children’s problems.
Downloaded by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris At 20:49 26 May 2019 (PT)
According to Swearer et al. (2009) families are supposed to be the major socialisation agent
for young children. However, most parents display aggressive behaviour themselves and the
problems encountered at home manifests itself when learners play out their frustrations at
school. SMT 1 (School C) confirmed that children model the behaviour of their parents:
The parents are fighting at home, so they always witness those things. The mothers drink, they
have boyfriends […] change boyfriends […] The children see all these things […] that brings
frustration and they become aggressive […] and that causes them to be bullies.
SMT member 3 (School C) complained about parents spoiling their children to the point that
they become aggressive. “They [Parents] give them a mentality that whatever you want,
you will get […]. So now they use aggressiveness to get what they want”.
In addition to poor parenting, Swearer and Napolitano (2011) assert that media violence
is another factor correlated with aggressive and anti-social behaviour. In this regard, the
principal of School C commented: “After 1994 a lot of our films are not censored in terms of
violence […] the TV news is very violent! […] TV influences our learners to become bullies”.
This is in keeping with what Teacher 2 (School D) mentioned when she said: “Look at the
movies […] there is always violence and aggression and I think that they [students] find that
to be acceptable behaviour”.
From the participants’ responses reported above, it is clear that their perceptions concurred
with Skinner’s behavioural theory which purports that all human behaviour, including violent
behaviour, is learnt through interactions with the social environment including the media.
The findings of this study inter alia concur with those of Maphalala and Mabunda (2014)
and Nthate (2017). The above assertions also support Bandura’s social learning theory,
which demonstrates how family background characteristics are associated with bullying
perpetration in schools (Monks et al., 2009). The manner in which children deal with their
emotions during this difficult time may increase their risk for acting aggressively towards
others (Miller and Lowen, 2012). The comments above are in keeping with Skinner’s
behavioural theory, which purports that all human behaviour, including violent behaviour,
is learned through interactions with the social environment (Ewen, 2010). Accordingly,
Smith (2013) argues that bullies become abusers through learned behaviour acquired
primarily from family members and friends.
While it is evident from the above findings that the influence at family level is substantial
in respect of bullying perpetration, the influence at the school level is equally significant and
must be given due consideration.
Influence at school level: “the foremost problem here is peer pressure”
An overwhelming number of participants identified several factors at the school level that
contributed to bullying in secondary schools. Learner 3 (School A) highlighted the problem
of peer pressure and the need to belong to a group as a critical factor in advancing bullying
The foremost problem here is peer pressure! […] We come to school from different backgrounds.
Then I find myself in the wrong group […] doing the wrong things […] that can cause bullying.
Principal (school C) elaborated on how bullies recruit other learners to expand the group:
Peer pressure could be a big influence […] Here are a few bullies who create more bullies in the
school and when the others join the central guys, then there is a big group of bullies.
IJEM Learner 6 (School C) added that such groups became stronger and eventually went “out of
32,6 control with gangs and gangsterism”.
1034 Linked to the idea of peer pressure and being part of a group are learners’ need for power
and attention. According to Teacher 1 (School A), learners in school “want to get famous […]
Downloaded by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris At 20:49 26 May 2019 (PT) be a hero”. They want attention by taking money and food from younger children. In doing so,
others praised and applauded them. Learner 3 (School C) agreed with Teacher 1 (School A):
They [bullies] want to be popular in school with everyone. They want girls to notice them. They
just love attention, they want to feel superior, and they want to be in a position of power.
While the above assertions confirm the bully’s need to acquire power and attention, the
bully’s age is a crucial factor that allows them to be dominant over other learners.
The majority of the management staff and teachers identified the age cohort of learners as
being one of the most predominant factors contributing to bullying in schools. As the
SMT 3 (School D) remarked:
Some of the learners are repeating grades […] The learner who is repeating the grade sits with
learners in grade 8 when he supposed to be in grade 10. He feels that he knows the system and he
tries to dictate to these youngsters […] and bully them around.
Teacher 3 (School C) complained about the increasing number of over-age and troublesome
learners recruited to the school from other schools:
Invariably they [students] are too old to be in school […] You get people who are 18 years old in
grade 8 […] we even have a 21-year-old in grade 12 […] To increase the roll of the school, we are
filling the classrooms up with over-age learners expelled from other schools.
Apart from the age factor, many learners are bullied because of their physical attributes
such as weight, size, disability and appearance that determined whether or not a child would
be a victim of bullying. The principal of School B commented:
The learners who are pious, who are fragile, who appear to be weak in structure and stature […]
they are the ones who sometimes fall victim to these bullies.
This view was shared by Teacher 3 (School A) who stated that learners were often bullied
when there was “something very different and noticeable about the child […] like a child
who is slightly overweight or has a physical disability”.
According to participants, anger and jealousy also played an important role in bullies
exhibiting anti-social behaviour. Learner 4 (School A) related how bullies, when they were
frustrated by their personal circumstances, lashed out in anger “by taking it out on
someone else”. Learner 2 (School B) expressed similar sentiments when he stated that
bullies felt the urge to be aggressive when they hated the world for some reason […] “just
to be dominant on people”.
Moreover, the data showed that students often bullied others because of a deep-seated
jealousy they had of the other person. This person might be more intelligent or performed
better than they did. Learner 2 (School C) said that bullying might occur because a person is
“capable of doing something you cannot do […] then you try in every way to bring that
person down”. A similar view was expressed by Learner 6 (School D) when he stated that
bullies worked hard to make educators see a certain student was “weak” once that student
got a high position in the class.
In addition to anger and jealousy, retribution when a learner wants to avenge the wrong
that has been done to him or her by another learner is considered a contributory factor to
bullying in schools. Learner 3 (School C) succinctly explained:
I bullied them […] because I was bullied by them. They said that I was “fat”, “I looked like a pig!”
And then I showed them who I was. I caught them by their “balls”! […] I wanted to show them that I
Confirmed by the studies of Ncontsa and Shumba (2013) and Makou and Bourdin (2017), Managing
discrimination, name calling, spreading lies and threats had a huge influence on bulling in the bullying
school. Moreover, these findings above support the homophily theory advocated by Cairns
and Cairns (1994), which suggests that learners in late elementary school through to early high 1035
school tend to hang out or befriend peers who are similar to them in attitudes, interests and
Downloaded by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris At 20:49 26 May 2019 (PT) behaviours (Swearer et al., 2009). Accordingly, Swearer et al. (2009) point out that bullies who
are usually older and physically stronger seek hierarchy-enhancing roles, are more socially
dominance-orientated, favour inequality and resist fairness. Hawley’s dominance theory also
provides an explanation to the above assertions by maintaining that children use aggression
against weaker children to attain a higher socio-metric status among peers.
Similarly, the social categorisation theory of Tajfel and Turner (1979) explains the
categorisation of people according to similar and dissimilar qualities and attributes. Furthermore,
Craven et al. (2007) confirms that vulnerable children targeted by bullies have a disability, wear
glasses, weigh more than their peers or just look physically weak or unattractive.
Although the influence at the school level contributes considerably to bullying
perpetration at schools, the importance of the influence at the community level should
not be underestimated.
Influence at community level: “they come from that violent environment”
Participants explained that the absence of after-school programmes and a lack of facilities,
particularly in rural communities, misdirected youngsters into engaging in other destructive
vices such as forming gangs and indulging in drugs and alcohol, to keep themselves occupied.
Principal (School A) confirmed that the environment children came from significantly
influence their behaviour:
Of late we have also been exposed to gangsters and they would then take the same attitude of
gangsterism to school and would want to come in and […] and practise that.
A similar view was confirmed by Teacher 3 (School E) when she stated:
There may be people in the community who are influencing the learners so that they can do the
wrong thing […] they teach them how to steal, how to use drugs and so on.
Moreover, Swearer et al. (2009) contend that bullying is strongly associated with both
alcohol and drug use. The principal of School E alluded to the fact that drugs and alcohol
were a major problem facing communities and schools today. He indicated that one out of
three students “indulged in drugs and even alcohol”.
Learners 6 (School B) explained that the use of illegal substances fuelled bullying: “It’s
the substances […] alcohol and drugs […] which control their mind. They eventually do
something they were not even thinking about at the time they’re doing it”.
Teacher 6 (School E) expressed dismay about the effect drugs had in the classroom:
After break […] you can’t teach them and you can’t control them because they are using drugs and
try to bully other learners especially the girls.
Apart from the social environment, and drugs and alcohol abuse, the findings of the survey
confirm that cultural background and religion contribute significantly in promoting
bullying behaviour in schools. The circuit manager confirmed that cultural background and
religion played a critical role in bullying perpetration:
In our cultural background especially the mono-cultural school […] you will find that over the
weekend they will be having a function and they would drink Zulu beer. All they will talk about is
fighting […] they (learners) see it happening […] and then they come to school and practise it.
Of late I’ve realised that fighting over religion […] like at Qantayi [High School] the community is
divided in two […] there are Nazareths and Christians […] each wants to dominate the area […]
they want to take this to school too.
IJEM The findings are also supported by Maphalala and Mabunda (2014), Ncontsa and Shumba
32,6 (2013) and Nthate (2017) that show how the violence and crime in communities affect
bullying in schools. Moreover, the assertions above concur with the differential association
1036 theory, which postulates that bullying behaviour is most likely the result of the association
of children with delinquent environments. Valois et al. (2002) also support this theory by
Downloaded by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris At 20:49 26 May 2019 (PT) suggesting that adults in the community involved in crime and violence, racial prejudice in
the neighbourhood and the brazen flouting of the law by aggressive and violent members of
the community promote a culture of aggression, violence and lawlessness among youth.
Participants’ assertions also support Bandura’s social learning theory, which purports that
children learn appropriate and inappropriate interactions through observing significant
others in the media and environment and deviant and anti-social peers. From the above
findings, it is evident that the contributory factors to bullying behaviour are many and
occur at the family, school and community levels.
A model to manage and curb bullying in schools
On the basis of the findings from the empirical study, Figure 1 proposes a model to
manage and curb bullying in secondary schools in the Uthungulu district of KwaZulu-Natal.
Religious leaders South African Police Service School Chiefs
SMT Department of Education psychologist
2. Factors Parents
A model to manage 4. Anti-bullying
and curb bullying in policy
The model depicts how each stage flows from one to the other and how each one relates to Managing
and is inter-linked to the management of bullying in secondary schools. bullying
The model to manage and curb bullying in secondary schools entails the following steps. 1037
Downloaded by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris At 20:49 26 May 2019 (PT) Step 1: identify the types of bullying most prevalent in the school
First, the principal, SMT, teachers and learners should identify which types of bullying are
most prevalent in the school. This investigation is critical and should guide policy
formulation on the necessary sanctions that need to be imposed depending on the severity of
the type of bullying experienced. For example, if physical bullying is most prevalent in your
school, followed by verbal bullying and then racist bullying, the sanctions for physical
bullying (e.g. stabbing) would require a higher level of sanction than, for example, verbal
bullying. The various types of bullying perpetrated in the school should be prioritised from
the most serious to the least serious and the relevant sanction imposed for each type of
bullying prevalent in the school according to its severity.
Step 2: establish factors contributing to bullying in your school
After the types of bullying are identified, it becomes necessary to establish the factors
contributing to bullying in your school. Establish at what level the family, the school and the
community has an influence on learners becoming bullies. Understanding what influences
bullying behaviour is absolutely necessary as this will guide you towards getting the
relevant role players involved in helping resolve bullying-related problems experienced in
Step 3: determine the impact of bullying on all stakeholders of your school
Determining the impact of bullying on all stakeholders of the school is of paramount
importance because the severity of bullies’ actions will determine the level of sanction that
needs to be imposed for that particular act. Violent behaviour will warrant higher order
sanctions as opposed to behaviour that is non-violent and of a lower severity.
Step 4: develop an anti-bullying policy for the school
Once the school has identified the types and the factors contributing to bullying and has
determined the impact it has on all stakeholders of the school and community, an
anti-bullying policy can be drawn up with sanctions clearly stated based on the severity of
the bullying act, starting with the most severe types of bullying such as physical bullying
(shootings, stabbings) to the less severe acts such as verbal bullying (name calling
Step 5: involve all relevant stakeholders at the school level
The anti-bullying policy must not only be punitive but also pro-social in its design in the
sense that it must help rehabilitate the offender. Once sanctions are imposed on the
defaulting learner, the principal, SMT, teachers, learners and parents need to
simultaneously play an encouraging role in the bully’s rehabilitation. Moreover, this
policy must be implemented fairly and consistently. The victim of the bullying must also be
attended to through support and counselling at the school level.
Step 6: involve the department of education in addressing the problem
The Department of Education should consider the appointment of a guidance counsellor in
each school to specifically attend to learners with behavioural problems as well as to the
victims who experience psychological distress emanating from their encounter with bullies.
Should the problem not be adequately addressed at the school level, the principal should
IJEM request assistance from the Department of Education for specialised personnel such as
32,6 social workers or school psychologists to address the problem.
1038 Step 7: involve outside agencies in addressing the problem
While sanctions are imposed on defaulting learners, outside agencies should simultaneously
Downloaded by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris At 20:49 26 May 2019 (PT) be consulted to help bullying learners understand the severity of their actions and the need
for them to undergo correctional supervision. The important role played by outside agencies
such as the police, religious leaders, ward councillors, chiefs (in rural areas) and motivational
speakers cannot be overemphasised. Their direct involvement and influence will have a
strong bearing on how quickly and efficiently the problem is attended to, as learners
generally respect leaders and elders from their own communities. This collaboration will go
a long way towards curbing bullying in schools since the responsibility for addressing the
problem will now not only lie with the school and Department of Education, but with the
leadership of the broader school community as well.
This study investigated the magnitude of bullying perpetration in secondary schools in the
Uthungulu district with a view of managing its intensity. It found that the factors
contributing considerably to the problem of bullying in schools were embedded at the level
of the family, the school and the community. The study revealed the complexity of the
phenomenon and the serious challenge to address it effectively. On the basis of the findings,
a model to manage and curb bullying was developed. This model requires the active
collaboration of all the stakeholders of secondary schools in the district of Kwazulu-Natal so
that a discernible reduction of the problem can be observed and the core business of
teaching and learning can be pursued uninterruptedly. In implementing the model in
schools, it is recommended that the model’s strengths and weaknesses be identified in order
to improve the model and thereby effectively curb bullying in schools. Since this study
concentrated on rural and semi-rural secondary schools in the Uthungulu district of
KwaZulu-Natal, further studies on the deepening crisis of bullying should be conducted in
urban secondary schools in KwaZulu-Natal and the rest of South Africa so that the
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