Durban – The death of Limpopo 10th grade student Lufuno Mavhunga after being bullied by peers brought the issue of bullying in schools to the fore in the eyes of the Ministry of Basic Education .
This led Deputy Minister Dr Reginah Mhaule to call on all teachers and students to report all acts of bullying and violence in and around schools.
Mhaule said such cases should be reported to SAPS and students who are bullied should contact Childline to speak to someone and report incidents of bullying.
On Monday, a video of the 15-year-old Mbilwi high school student being attacked by a classmate while others were watching and taking videos went viral and sparked fury in many.
The video shows Lufuno confronting another student before being interrupted by another student who slaps her multiple times. The helpless student does not retaliate but tries to reason with the student instead. In the background, other students are heard mocking or applauding the abuser.
A second video from the same incident shows the two students being separated by a male student, but not before the student is again slapped and pulled on the 15-year-old’s hair.
According to Limpopo police spokesman Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo, the child returned from school and claimed to have been beaten by the other student.
She subsequently locked herself in the bedroom and overdosed on pills.
Police said Lufuno’s mother found her unconscious in her room and took her to hospital where she died on arrival.
Registered Counselor Cayley Jorgenson of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) said bullying in all its forms is a huge problem among South African children in school, which has a direct impact on the mental health of all. the students involved (victim, spectator and bullies). .
“Over the past two months, I have noticed an increase in suicidal ideation, suicide attempts by girls and boys as well as an increase in bullying among adolescents. Research shows 23.6% of teens grapple with feelings of hopelessness and sadness that beg the question – as a community, are we doing enough to support teens?
“It’s really important from a community perspective that adolescents are encouraged to ask for support if they are having difficulty. In my experience, teenagers hold onto their thoughts and emotions because they don’t want to overwhelm their parents or teachers and as a result their friends end up keeping these secrets out of fear of losing their friendship.
“We need to provide adolescents with a safe space to receive support and advice and provide them with the knowledge and resources to get help and take care of themselves. Emphasis must be placed on bullying awareness programs and reporting systems must be in place so that teens can reach out without fear of judgment. We cannot just focus on adolescents and children.
“Teachers need to know how to help adolescents and where they can access that help. Teachers need to be supported and have the knowledge to help learners about mental health and the steps and procedures to follow when it comes to bullying and suicide. I am of the opinion that teachers are the first aid when it comes to learner mental health and therefore we need to support teachers who can create these safe spaces for learners to ask for help if they are having difficulty.
Many South Africans took to Twitter to express their shock and sadness, as well as the hashtag #JusticeForLufuno has since been trending.
Some teachers have also taken to Twitter and are calling for corporal punishment to be reintroduced as teachers are powerless in these incidents and are themselves becoming victims. While some believe the Ministry of Education has relinquished its responsibility as teachers are tasked with becoming social workers, police officers, medics with low pay, and others say they are also victims of bullying having to teach a class of 40 students during a pandemic. .