Learners taught hard lessons

Provincial Education Minister, Debbie Schafer visited Beacon Hill Secondary School last Thursday to launch the “Raise your voice, not your phone” campaign, to address the effects of bullying in schools.

Paxton Fielies, singer, songwriter and season 13 Idols South Africa winner, DJ and TV presenter, Carl Wastie and Metro South District Director, Granville Stander, were also present during the launch.

“Beacon Hill Secondary was chosen as it recently experienced its own incident of bullying – both at school and on social media,” she said.

Given the prevalence of bullying in schools, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has embarked on a campaign to highlight the effects of bullying on learners, as well as to draw attention to the fact that learners who film, post or distribute videos are also participating in the bullying.

The campaign also provides tips on what one can do to help victims that are being bullied, as well as the types of support that are available for learners experiencing such abuse.

“We are all aware that bullying is happening at most schools in some shape or form. It can be verbal, physical or via a third party through social media.

Any learner or parent of a learner who has gone through such abuse knows the pain and trauma it can bring. It can lead to depression, anxiety, self-harming and in some cases, even suicide,” she said.

She added that the use of social media has heightened these risks.

Learners are now using various social media platforms to either tease, embarrass, intimidate or torment other learners.

The reality is that it involves thousands of learners – who are either posting, sharing, or re-tweeting videos, photos or messages that damage the reputation or confidence of others.

“With many of the incidents filmed and shared on Social Media for their friends to see, learners don’t realise you don’t need to beat somebody up to be a bully. We needed a way to help learners realise it for themselves,”

In order to get the message across appropriately, the WCED sought the assistance of Hellocomputer and FCB Cape Town to develop the campaign and toolkit.

Given the sensitive nature of the content that is being provided, child psychologists were also enlisted to provide advice on its development.

The campaign first involves the filming of a fake bullying incident in a school yard. It ends with the simple message: “Raise your voice, not your phone”.

The video exposes how learners don’t necessarily understand the implications of filming or distributing content across social media, and how their actions are just as bad as the bully concerned.

It is a powerful message that not only reveals the pain one can cause, but also the pain that many have suffered.

The campaign also leads learners to various pages of support or advice on how to intervene when bullying occurs.

“I am grateful for the support of Paxton Fielies in launching this campaign.

She eloquently expressed her own experiences with bullying on social media and encouraged learners to stand up against bullies, rather than participate in the abuse by standing back, or filming and distributing the event,” said Schafer.

Paxton said: “People say the ugliest things and what do we do? We share it, we re-tweet it, and we basically broadcast it to everybody, we make it our business and you guys would know, when fights break out at school, what is the first thing we do? We take out our phones to film it instead of breaking up the fight.

When I see videos being sent around of people saying they going to beat someone up, it actually sickens me because as much as that person is the bully, we are giving such things attention which makes us bullies too.”

She also said people need to stop advertising things like that and start reporting it because it’s not okay.

Bullies have a way of making people devalue themselves and making them think they’re worth nothing.

“Up until this day I still get rude messages and comments thrown at me but now, the only difference is, I chose faith over fear. I believe in positivity and I believe that we all have a special purpose.

And I know, it takes months, even years for people to finally be at peace with themselves because they got bullied, but what I’ve come to understand is that you are your own person .”