In a bid to eradicate bullying from society, an anti-bullying dialogue awareness was held at Mpetha Square Creche in Nyanga last Saturday.
Themed “If the church does not go to the streets, the streets will come to the church”, the bullying prevention initiative aimed to mobilise parents, police, children and key stakeholders in promoting a safe living environment.
The initiative was organised by religious leaders and community activists Reverend Mawande Lugongolo of the Rev. M. S. Foundation and the Sacred Heart Church founder Archbishop Dumisani Qwebe.
Mr Qwebe organised the day to make parents aware of bullying and get their help to put a stop to it.
He threw the ball straight to the parents by alluding that children are faced with bullying from their own parents and many other psycho-social issues, something that most parents are not aware of and do not know how to deal with.
He added that parents’ involvement in raising their children is as important as understanding the challenges children face.
Although his view did not go down well with some parents, he emphasised that young people engage in violent behaviour generally because they learned such behaviour at home.
He said couples normally fight in front of their children and children are taking that as a form of defending themselves.
Mr Qwebe said the language used by couples when they are fighting in front of their children and the choice of words by both parents can shape or destroy a child.
“As parents we are at fault and we need to admit that. The message that adults give children is powerful. We are part of moral decay. The country is now in a crisis because we got things wrong. We need to find ourselves as parents. The fights we have in front of our children and the language we use has created the monsters that we are seeing today, bullying each other because bullying started at home,” he said.
Mr Qwebe said the whole society needs to be involved in the upbringing of children and curbing this phenomenon. He said the role of the parent to stop bullying should continue from now on.
He said bullying is verbal, social, physical, financial, emotional, online, traditional, cultural, spiritual and in other ways.
“We are the cause of bullying even in our churches. We use Bible verses to bully those we have something against. These are truths we have to out and condemn them. As church leaders we have a lot to say but we are also at fault. Traditional leaders too have a way of bullying others. We need to come right on all fronts.”
Mr Qwebe concluded by saying there is a higher risk of violence because this is the behaviour that is modelled for the children and said it was important for parents to be involved in educating their children about bullying.
Reverend Mawande Lugongolo said bullying is a growing and increasingly worrying phenomenon. He said there should be a number of different bullying prevention programmes implemented to create a more positive environment.
“We wanted to talk to our parents and show them the bad side of what they are doing to children and its results. That is to bring awareness of how the community influences children to bully others. Some children with backgrounds of bullying are bullying others. So this is to say, parents have an important role to play, but they are no longer playing the role they are supposed to. Parents should know that bullying is an unwanted, aggressive behaviour amongst children. The fact is both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious and lasting problems. That is why we should prevent it with all that we have,” he said.
He said parents have a responsibility to have a good relationship and proper communication with their children.
Mr Lugongolo said the long term effects of bullying are that bullied children some times isolate themselves and may even commit suicide.
He said the visibility of parents at schools would be important, just to see how a child is behaving. He also called on parents to attend sessions with social workers and learn. “The only way to solve this is to start at home. Things that happen at homes are toxic. We also need to be part of schools and help teachers cope with our children.”
Residents appreciated the efforts of the stakeholders and their intervention in trying to create a safe and secure environment in society.
Police spokesperson Constable Nandisa Mpengesi, who defended police on accusations that they are also bullying the community in many issues, said police are there to protect the community and said everyone has a right to discourage bullying.
She encouraged reporting crime and any police officers who abuse their power. She said as police they want to decrease crime not to be part of it.