A school in KwaZulu-Natal is taking innovative steps to eradicate the trend of school bullying.
Thanks to social media, the public is exposed to school fights, which include gruesome acts of violence beset on innocent youngsters, almost weekly.
Veldenvlei Primary School in Richards Bay, however, is actively responding by implementing a creative anti-bullying method that has already produced results.
The concept, picked up on social media by teaching best friends, Alida de Bruyn and Nicolene Oosthuizen, has seen a dramatic exposure of bullying issues.
"We thought there was a great need for children to express themselves. They don't always want to come forward to parents or teachers," De Bruyn told News24 at the school this week.
The bully box
The duo had picked up on a concept called the bully box, where pupils can drop in anonymous complaints about bullies. School management then takes over and investigates allegations.
Oosthuizen called in her husband, who put two boxes up at the school, and the results were immediate.
"We thought it would take a while, but it worked fast. When we opened the box and saw letters on the first day, we were shocked."
She added that, while bullying was not extreme at the school, it still helped children "feel safe and do their best".
"It is so amazing that we could help the children. Now we know why a child becomes closed off or [behaves] in a certain way. You get more of an insight and everything starts to make sense. Thereafter, we can find solutions."
Deal with it immediately
De Bruyn said immediately dealing with issues was part of the school's ethos.
"That way the children know and have confidence in us. They know that something will be done. It makes you feel good where the child comes to class happy, and loves to play."
Deputy principal Dr AM Truter said the school encouraged teachers to take initiative.
"When teachers come to us with ideas, we see if it will assist us and it did. Immediately, we know about a situation and can act instantly. I am also the counsellor of the school. We try to help the child before it gets out of hand."
Truter said that the concept had also helped to identify serial bullies.
"Today, we are having a meeting with a parent and their child because there have been several notes by different children complaining of bullying from that child. This is an extreme case, so we had to bring in parents."
How can other schools learn from this?
According to Truter, the concept and implementation could only be done if schools were willing to go the extra mile.
"At our school, teachers are very active and they have great enthusiasm."
Oosthuizen then chips in: "Yes, we love coming to school every day and being with our pupils. We are here at 06:15 for our morning coffee."
Truter said the dedication and ethos of the school contributed greatly to the bully box and any school's success.
"It is an ongoing thing that we can put emphasis in values. If they have values in primary school it will help them in life. Quality teachers in the classroom detect problems earlier."
Truter said the school also taught with "love and respect".
"We do not treat the bullies badly. We encourage an atmosphere of respect and kindness. We do this to the point where it is our culture here. So, when a bully is aggressive and unkind, they feel out of the crowd."
She added: "Sometimes with pupils, there is violence in the home. They must see the school as a safe haven. Only when you feel secure can quality education take place."