Hout Bay writer, speaker, and the director at relating.com Sergio Milandri spoke to pupils of Plumstead High School last week at the launch of an anti-bullying campaign.
The day kicked off with a protest where pupils gathered behind the school fence with placards. Accompanied by hooting from passers-by, pupils from the neighbouring John Graham Primary School watched with great interest.
In assembly principal Craig George said bullying happened in every school and the idea of the assembly was to conscientise pupils about it.
He said bullying had become worse with social media. “With cyber bullying children have lost their morals and no longer know what is appropriate and what is not, or how to deal with others with dignity,” he said.
Verline Leo said another aim of the campaign was to ensure that there was a supportive and safe environment for pupils.
Ms Leo was on the school’s governing body until she recently relocated to the Cederberg. She continues to support the school through social media and with much help and support from principal George.
Ms Leo said she was surprised by what she saw on the internet. “It’s
not cool. Everything I saw on YouTube around bullying ends with suicide. That is the extreme. We must all take responsibility in addressing this issue.
“Parents need to take note of the child’s interaction with friends and family. The school should also take note. If you see someone being bullied don’t stand back and watch. In doing so you are also a bully,” she said.
“Instead, if you see a child sitting in a corner of the playing field go to them, ask them to join you in the library or in your group,” said Ms Leo.
Mr Milandri spoke to pupils about how teenage perceptions of conflict had a profound effect on all our lives. “Reflecting on them without judgement enables us to begin to see conflict as a friend,” he said.
“We need to see each other for who we are. Don’t react to someone because there is something different about them. We all are not taught about relationships in school but we must learn how to be with other people in society. We have come out of a broken society, if we don’t learn how to accept others it can lead to frightening, scary, toxic relationships and lives. We need to accept people for who they are and what they bring to our lives.
“You carry the skills you have learnt at school into your life. In school you have a safe place but the world is a tough place,” said Mr Milandri.
Ms Leo ended the assembly telling pupils that if they did not have something positive to say they must keep quiet. She then invited pupils to tell their stories about bullying issues they had experienced.
One boy said he has been bullied since Grade 4 when he was called “a moffie”. Then two girls climbed onto the stage, one was the friend.
Holding hands, hugging, the girl said she was bullied about her body. Children said she was too thin, “sticks and bones”. Then in Grade 9 it started again and she was called “grot”. This derogatory term, meaning ugly, elicited a shocked response from the audience.