Concern over bullying of minorities, gays in South Africa

January 14, 2004

JOHANNESBURG — The South African Depression and Anxiety Group on Tuesday appealed to parents and teachers to be vigilant, keeping an eye out for incidents of bullying as children returned to school.

"Physical or verbal forms of bullying take an emotional toll on kids and compromise their feelings of safety and self-esteem," Zane Wilson of the group said in a statement.

"It's important that parents and other adults provide valuable emotional support, discuss the importance of respecting differences in themselves and others, and recognise when their children may be having difficulty coping with their transition back to school."

He said children are faced with teasing and bullying on a daily basis. Almost two-thirds of the calls received by the teen crisis line were about teasing and being gossiped about.

Children who were overweight, gay or perceived to be gay and disabled children suffered the most bullying.

He said posters had been made to put up in cloakrooms, change rooms and toilets at schools, advertising the toll free line.

Material were also available to teachers on how to recognise depression in teenagers.

Wilson said certain steps could be taken to stop bullying and anti-social behaviour.

-- Children should be taught to respect others and not to tease people who were different.

-- Children should be taught to be assertive, but to walk away from dangerous situations.

-- Adults had to stop bullying if they saw it and children should be taught to take action if they saw someone being bullied. - Sapa

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