It’s cool to be kind

Claudia Burger, social worker and programme director at Anex, is guest speaker at the leadership forum in Hurlingham.


Partners for possibility (PfP) recently hosted a leadership forum for Gauteng teachers at the Rosebank Union Church in Hurlingham, where experts tackled trauma and bullying, which is on the rise in many South African schools.

PfP, a programme which aims to enhance the quality of education by improving the school environment and encouraging engagement between parents and teachers, is a flagship programme of Symphonia Leadership Development, which focuses on leadership development and believes in organisational change to maximise human energy and creativity.

Discussing the effects of trauma on the brain, Claudia Burger, social worker and programme director at Activists Networking Against the Exploitation of Children (Anex), said trauma is an individual’s response to an event. “The one word to best describe trauma is… terror! And one defines the experience of terror as a feeling of being totally unsafe and powerless to do anything about one’s situation.”

In her presentation, Burger highlighted the importance of building secure relationships or attachments between teachers and pupils who suffered trauma and said research had proven that secure attachment was associated with higher grades.

“It is also associated with greater emotional regulation, competence and a willingness to take on challenges with lower levels of delinquency and higher achievements.”

According to Tracey-Leigh Kinsey, a self-esteem elevator and child and teen life coach, bullying is repetitive. It always intends to hurt or cause pain to the other party, either emotionally or physically. “In any bullying situation there’s always a perceived imbalance of power, meaning the aggressor perceives they are stronger or more powerful than the victim.”

Tracey-Leigh Kinsey, self-esteem elevator and children and teen life coach, encourages teachers to help victims of trauma and bullying.

Tracey-Leigh Kinsey, self-esteem elevator and children and teen life coach, encourages teachers to help victims of trauma and bullying.

“It could also mean that [the agressor] has an emotional imbalance of power, more friends, more self-confidence and is more verbal and outspoken,” she explained.

She said bullying and the effects of stress and trauma on our youth today have an incredible effect that can no longer be ignored, and the good news is that a lot of money and time is being invested into research as to why bullying has reached the level it has. However, the bad news is, even with all the research and resources, there is still no quick solution.

“Bullying has been going on for generations, but the difference is, today it has become too dangerous. Cyberbullying follows children into their homes and they can’t escape it,” said Kinsey.

To turn bullying on its head, Burger said there were programmes available to both primary and senior schools which teach pupils the value of kindness. “We no longer focus on how bad it is to bully or how to punish and criminalise it, we [now] teach children how good it is to be kind, and to stand up for people who are being bullied.

“We need to create a perception shift so that it’s no longer cool to be a bully but cool to be kind.”


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Lethu Nxumalo

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