SA kids have to endure bullying way more than the rest of the world
Boys from low-income areas are most at risk, a study has found
SA children face twice the amount of bullying as their international counterparts, on average – and their school marks are suffering as a result.
One in six (17%) Grade 9 pupils report being exposed to some form of bullying almost weekly, says a study in the South African Journal of Education.
More than 12,000 boys and girls from about 300 fee-paying and non-fee-paying schools were surveyed by Trends in International Mathematics and Science, an annual global study that focuses on the changes in the education system over time.
Researchers from the Human Sciences Research Council found that boys from low-income communities who attend low-income schools were at a greater risk of being bullies or victims of bullying.
Bullying took on many indirect and direct forms, but the two most common types reported were theft and being made fun of, which are considered direct bullying, the study said.
It found that pupils who felt they belonged, were accepted by peers and felt safe were less likely to be bullied.
The researchers saw this more commonly in schools with “healthy climates”. Criteria used to assess the health of a school’s climate were its emphasis on academic success, disciplinary problems, incidence of bullying and the challenges faced by teachers.
Researchers urged schools to create an environment that encourages positive interactions between peers and teachers.
But they acknowledged that the biggest challenge for low-income schools was managing scarce resources. “School leadership has to decide which interests to prioritise. As a result, intangible school factors often receive little to no attention,” the study said.
Academics led by Andrea Juan from the HSRC education and skills development research programme argued that the health of a school was a direct reflection of its community.