Cape Town - There have been five cases of bullying reported to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) between January and March.
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the WCED recorded 35 cases in the previous year, and 111 in 2019.
However, Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) spokesperson Tad Khosa said the centre continued to receive reports of school bullying, although the specific type of cases were usually not reported as often, due to fear of secondary victimisation.
Hammond said, among other things, the WCED has implemented a policy called “Abuse no More” that provided guidelines to schools on dealing with any form of abuse, including bullying.
Khosa said, despite the existence of laws and policies, which were meant to protect pupils, schools continued to be a space where pupils were exposed to physical and psychological violence.
"Bullying is an inter-sectional issue, and society and school communities have a responsibility to combat bullying, in order to begin dismantling the factors which inform it," he said.
Among the five cases, was that of a Grade 8 boy, from Belgravia High School in Athlone, who was was caught on camera setting alight the hair of a fellow Grade eight girl two weeks ago.
Parliament's portfolio committee on Basic Education chairperson Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba urged education authorities to ensure that those involved in bullying face the consequences of their actions, and measures be taken to stamp bullying out.
She said the committee was planning an oversight visit to schools in the province, in the near future, and it was definitely an issue they would take up.
Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the department was embarking on a nationwide multi-sector, interdepartmental annual school safety and violence prevention drive, to raise awareness on the distressing impact of bullying and violence, reported in and around schools.
Mhlanga said the roll-out of the campaign “School Safety – Violence, and Bullying Prevention Initiatives”, aimed to mobilise pupils, parents, teachers and key stakeholders in promoting a safe learning environment for quality education, and to galvanise constructive community involvement in schools, to curb incidents of bullying and violence.
"Bullying, which often leads to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, suicide, low academic performance, absenteeism and school dropouts, can have a direct impact on educational outcomes," said Mhlanga.