Effects of Bullying on the Psychological Functioning of Victims
The violation of learners in schools has gained substantial media attention across South Africa in the 20th century. The attitudes of learners have changed and the value attached to education diminished. There are increasing concerns within South Africa that schools are the sites of widespread violence. The aim of this paper was to explore the effects of bullying in schools on the psychological functioning of victims. The study was conducted in the Sarah Baartman District Municipality in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. A qualitative approach and an exploratory research design were used in conducting this study. A purposive sampling technique was employed to select 40 participants for the study, made up of 25 learners, 5 social workers, 5 educators, and 5 community members from schools mostly affected by school-based bullying. The data were obtained through semi-structured interviews with the participants and thereafter the data were analysed thematically. The findings revealed that bullying within the school environment negatively affects the psychological functioning and academic progress of learners. Exposure to bullying impairs learners’ emotions and cognition and it ultimately leads to increased levels of anxiety and depression. Hence, it was revealed that low self-esteem, thoughts of self-destruction and severe behavioural conditions are long-term effects that victims face. One conclusion drawn from this study is that victims of bullying often opt to stay absent from school because of fear. One pertinent recommendation made was to establish support groups for victims that will equip them with skills of empowerment.