School bullying inhibits girls’ academic performance
By Nomzamo Gwebu
Nomvelo Dube (33) who lives in Robert Sinyoka village, a peri-urban area on the outskirts of Bulawayo metropolitan province, says bullying in schools in Zimbabwe is now becoming a cause for concern as some children now fear going to school because of violence perpetrated by some learners.
She says as a parent with school going children, she is always worried that one day they may be caught up in the violence. She says this is worse for children who travel long distances to school. She adds that girls are especially vulnerable because they find it difficult to defend themselves.
“At times violent skirmishes occur in our neighbourhood and some leaners are now in the habit of moving around with knives and other weapons to harm other students. I am always worried because it seems like schools have no mechanisms to stop bullying,” says Nomvelo.
Nomvelo says the school environment is no longer safe because of industrial action by teachers where learners are left unattended as teachers press the government for better remuneration.
Nomvelo highlights that bullying in schools affects victims as it decreases their academic participation and that children who are bullied are more likely to miss, skip or drop out of school or are forced to retaliate through extremely violent measures.
Amahle (12), a grade 4 pupil at Robert Sinyoka primary school says bullying in schools is rampant and she is also a victim of this abhorrent practice. She says her days at school have been turned into a nightmare because of being bullied by a fellow student who beats her up, insults her and takes every opportunity to humiliate her.
“The problem started when I borrowed a textbook from Thabitha, a fellow school mate who is also my church mate. After using the book, I gave it to another learner so that she could hand it back on my behalf. Unfortunately the book got lost. I took the blame and my parents replaced the book,” says Amahle.
Amahle says she thought everything was going to be fine after replacing the book but that was not to be. She says Thabitha just developed a grudge against her and would insult her whenever they met. She says she once tried to discuss the issue with her but she did not even listen.
“One day when I was walking home from school, Thabitha mobilised her friends and they followed me and started to beat me up. They accused me of stealing from them and made all sorts of allegations. I tried to explain but they did not want to hear anything from me. After beating me they threatened to harm me if I reported them to school authorities, says Amahle.
Amahle says since that incident, she is now afraid of going to school and that this has disturbed her school performance. She says that even at break time, she is afraid of going out to play in case she bumps into Thabitha.
Nomvelo says school authorities and parents have a role to play if bullying in schools is to be stopped. She says parents should always talk to their children to find out how they are doing at school.
“As a parent I always talk to my children to find out how they are doing at school. At time the children are threatened not to report, so a parent should check to see if their children are happy or are worried. Parents should have more time with their children to find out if there is anything bothering them,” says Nomvelo.
Nomvelo says children who bully others are likely to get into fights, vandalize property or drop out of school and the same applies to the children who are bullied. She says that is why it is necessary for parents and guardians to check on their children from time to time and talk to them about things happening at school.