Bullying in and out of school : personal narratives of primary school learners.
The study emerges against a global and local backdrop of the prevalence of bullying in and out of schools. Growing incidents of bullying are a direct threat to the expectation that schools should be safe places for learners to learn, develop, participate fully and be able to reach their full potential. The study investigates the experiences and narratives of a sample of primary school learners who go to school and live in the informal settlement of Inanda, north of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, with the view to developing a greater insight into the phenomenon of bullying. The research is conceptually underpinned by perspectives offered by the Sociology of Children and New Childhood Studies, which accept children as social actors and experts on their own lives, and should be granted the status of participation in the social processes that surround them and impact on them in their everyday lives. Such a perspective offers a useful lens through which to conduct research that aims to make aspects of children’s lives visible. The children in the study were listened to and viewed as competent participants in the overall research endeavour. The focus on understanding human experiences locates the study firmly within a qualitative research design, and is the rationale for the selection of personal narratives as the strategy of inquiry. Participatory methods of data generation were used, in the form of a mapping exercise and semi-structured interviews (both individual and a focus group interview). Purposive sampling was used to identify eight participants, comprising four male and four female, grade 7 learners from a primary school in Inanda. The selection of learners had been victims and/or perpetrators of bullying, and therefore knowledgeable and informative about the phenomena of interest. What emerged from the study is that bullying is experienced on an ongoing basis by learners within the primary school, as well as in their homes and in places in their immediate surroundings. The ability to identify the places and spaces which render them vulnerable to bullying, and avoid these places and spaces, is the key way learners have learned to navigate such places and spaces.