The management of a high school in Stellenbosch where school girl bullies viciously assaulted weaker classmates has admitted it has a discipline problem.
Pupils filmed two attacks at Luckhoff High School – which took place four days apart last month – and the footage has made international news headlines.
Jessica Shelver‚ spokesperson for Western Cape MEC of Education Debbie Schafer‚ said the department was shocked to see a second bullying video emerge on social media on Tuesday‚ prompting officials to hold an emergency meeting with school management on the same day.
“The school acknowledged that they have behavioural challenges at the school and that running a punitive process‚ as they have been‚ simply isn’t working‚” she told Tiso Black Star Group Digital.
A Grade eight pupil was left bleeding from the head after the first assault on November 24. An aggressive classmate shook her head around‚ smashed a knee into her face and punched her in the head.
A smaller girl was verbally assaulted and punched in the head by a larger girl during the second incident on November 28.
Disciplinary hearings are being held against both bullies and one will face a charge of assault in the Stellenbosch Magistrates’ Court.
Principal Chris Jooste is facing a public backlash on the school’s Facebook page‚ which has not posted anything about the incidents. Irate parents and people who have viewed the viral videos resorted to posting dozens of scathing comments under photographs of the school football team’s achievements on Tuesday. They complained that the page had been closed to public reviews.
Tarin Scharneck posted this comment: “I would really love to see a press release on what you have done to stop the bullying at your school. Your lack of communication on this matter shows nothing but condonation of the act.”
Cheryl Ingram said: “This is appalling – and not a single comment from the school.”
The page appeared to have been sanitised by Wednesday morning with most of the negative comments removed.
Earlier this week‚ Jooste told an SABC journalist in an audio interview that he was only aware of one bullying incident — the first viral video.
“Is this the first time it happened at the school?” asked Neo Motloung. “According to my mind‚ it’s the first time it happened‚ yes‚” he replied. But a second video surfaced soon afterwards.
“It is evident that the school needs to plan for both medium- and long-term interventions to address the issue of bullying‚ and this is needed to be done in a holistic manner‚” said Shelver.
Several steps have been taken by the department in collaboration with other partners to address bullying at the school. They include:
- A partnership with Child Welfare Stellenbosch along with the Ida’s Valley community to address violence within homes‚ schools and the community.
- Life orientation educators should focus on equipping learners with knowledge and skills to deal with conflict in a healthy and safe manner. The importance of values such as empathy and respect for each other should form part of the content.
- The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) will assist with a workshop for the teachers to assist and guide them with regard to their role and responsibility in the safekeeping and protection of learners.
- Teachers from Luckhoff will be sent on a leadership and character-building programme early next year. Anti-bullying awareness campaigns and interventions will be run at the start of the school year at the school as well as throughout the district.
- There will be anti-bullying workshops at the school with the representative council of learners and parents.
- As bullying is apparent in communities and is a barrier to learning‚ an anti-bullying conference will be held in 2017‚ targeting members of school management teams and school governing bodies from the Cape Winelands Education District‚ to equip them with skills to prevent and address bullying in the correct manner.
“The WCED’s Safe Schools hotline is available to schools‚ teachers‚ parents and learners to report all school crime and abuse‚ and aims to contribute to a safe and crime-free school environment‚” said Shelver.
The Safe Schools call centre can be reached at toll-free number 0800 45 46 47. – Tiso Black Star Group Digital