Pupils Speak Out: Weapons, bullying and intimidation
The article you are about to read is part of a weekly series of comment pieces written by pupils about the problems they encounter in their schools. The series offers pupils a chance to be part of the debate about South Africa’s education system.
“Weapons are dangerous, they scare other kids. I don’t think the principal knows about this issue,” says 16-year-old Lucia*.
Lucia is one of many school pupils at a high school in central Johannesburg who are scared for their lives because of weapons that bullies carry to school.
Thato* (16), another pupil, says: “You can’t do anything or tell anyone about these weapons because if you tell a teacher and by luck the bully finds out that it was you who told the teacher, there is a high chance of you getting beaten up. This really makes me feel unsafe.”
Pupils say matrics are usually the ones who bring weapons to school and this makes them feel sad and unhappy because it’s bringing the name of the school down.
Police have tried to do something about the issue, but it seems as though nothing has changed. If pupils keep reporting seeing weapons in the school, we need to come up with a better solution.
One learner stabbed another in 2013. The two girls were arguing and had started fighting physically when one of them went to her bag and took out a pocket knife and stabbed the other. She was later expelled for bringing a weapon to school.
The victim was badly injured and although she made a full recovery in hospital, the incident triggered a lot of challenges at the school.
Some pupils believe that certain teachers are afraid of the bullies, and that the principal is not really doing enough and just lets them be.
It is clear that bullying is not under control at the school. A child being stabbed on school grounds was supposed to be a wake-up call that weapons are dangerous, but pupils keep bringing them to school and the rest of the learners don’t feel safe.
“Kids concentrate on bringing weapons to school and becoming bullies instead of studying. It’s a negative influence on others and bullies use these weapons … This makes us fear them more and threatening is their best thing,” says one pupil.
Talking to the teachers about the bullying issue is not easy as the person is older than you. From a child’s perspective, it’s much easier talking to someone who is the same age as you because that person knows what you are going through and the challenges you face as a teenager.
Knives are mostly the tool that makes a lot of students feel unsafe and some students take advantage of their height and weight, because they are tall and buff, to bully others. It seems as though people can’t find a solution to this problem, but schools should come together and find one.
The police last came to the school early this year and haven’t been back since. Officers should visit schools randomly and search for weapons. They might be surprised at what they find.
*Not their real names.
The two pupils who wrote this article are participants in the Children’s News Agency project by Media Monitoring Africa and have asked to remain anonymous. This non-profit media watchdog organisation, based in Johannesburg, aims to enhance participation of children in mainstream media by providing them with the skills necessary to report on problems that children face. The agency works with pupils between the ages of 14 and 17 who attend an inner-city public school in Johannesburg. Most of the pupils at the school are from underprivileged backgrounds. The project participants identified problems they face in and out of school. They interviewed other children affected by these challenges and gave their opinions on these topics to raise awareness about them.