An exploration of the experiences of learners who witness bullying in a school in Umlazi.
The issue of bullying in schools is an age old problem and it does not only occur in schools but even in the workplace. This study aims to explore the experiences of learners who witness bullying in schools and how this issue affects them psychologically, emotionally and academically. This was a qualitative study and data was collected through open-ended interviews and focus group discussions. Data for this study was collected from learners from grades eight to twelve, who had witnessed bullying. Interviews were audio taped, transcribed and analysed, and data was categorised into themes. The results of this study revealed that there were some psychological, emotional and academic problems that emanated from witnessing bullying. The trauma of watching bullying endangered the lives of the witnesses, psychologically and emotionally, meaning that it affected the way they reasoned out things. Some witnesses even pointed out that bullying compelled them to think with their hearts rather than with their minds. Ultimately, they made decisions that they regretted because they had taken those decisions when they were furious. The results also revealed that bullying negatively impacted on some learners’ academic performance. Their studies deteriorated and some ended up repeating a grade. The results of this study also revealed a lack of intervention by educators, parents and the Department of Education and more especially a lack of programmes that aimed at helping the witnesses. Witnesses of bullying in this study revealed that they were not given a voice about the issue of bullying, but seemed to be neglected despite the negative impact on them. When witnesses in this study watched bullying, their rights and freedom to think, behave acceptably and learn without disturbance were infringed upon. Witnesses in this study also proposed a number of effective and varied intervention methods. It is recommended that educators should be equipped with skills of dealing with witnesses in bullying. Witnesses should be exposed to strategies that would help in instilling assertiveness to them, so that they would have a hand in the struggle of eradicating bullying altogether in schools. Policies implemented by both the Department of Education and the school should be reinforced.