The high prevalence of bullying in South African schools in recent times is a cause for serious concern. Bullying is traumatic and has a painful, corrosive and damaging…
The high prevalence of bullying in South African schools in recent times is a cause for serious 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.
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.
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.
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.