Raise your voice - not your phone
This morning I visited Beacon Hill Secondary School to launch a campaign to address the effects of bullying in schools.
We chose Beacon Hill Secondary for this event, as it recently experienced its own incident of bullying - both in school and on social media.
Singer, songwriter and Season 13 Idols South Africa winner, Paxton Fielies, radio DJ and TV presenter, Carl Wastie and Metro South District Director, Granville Stander, joined me in launching the campaign.
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.
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 sad 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.
Given the prevalence of bullying in our schools, the 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.
The campaign, launched here today, is called, "Raise your voice, not your phone."
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 viewer is then taken to 5 constructed questions that would naturally lead one to the person physically assaulting the other, but when asked in sequence, it leads the reader to the realisation that learners are also participating in bullying by filming the incident rather than intervening in order to bring an end to the abuse.
See here - http://www.wcg-antibullying.co.za/
A second video was then created which involved the participation of random learners from schools across the metro, who were asked to participate in an interview. A psychologist was asked to show each learner the first video and a number of questions were posed thereafter. They were not briefed on the content. Their reactions are all real.
Just see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBOr46mWHQs
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.
Paxton said "people say the ugliest things and what do we do? We share it, we retweet 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. I personally think we should stop advertising things like that and start reporting it because it's not okay. Bullies have a way of making us devalue ourselves and making us think we'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 .The place you are at in life might not be the same as others, but that's okay and it's okay to be yourself and do things for yourself. Be happy and always stand up for yourself. Spread positivity, love and hope and remember that you are enough".
Carl Wastie had a special message for the learners, he said "Bullies will poke at things that they see as weaknesses but this is your uniqueness. You are the first and last edition of you. That means that you're limited edition. Be proud of who you are and use your power to make a positive change in your circle".
It is our intention to use this toolkit to educate learners and schools throughout the province, to "Raise your voice. Not your phone". It is a message that should be heard all over the world.
I must thank Carl and Paxton for joining me today to raise awareness around bullying in schools.