Protecting preschoolers from bullying

Bullying is a pressing issue that affects children of all ages, even at the preschool level. As South Africa celebrated National Children’s Day on 4 November, it is crucial to acknowledge once more that children have the right to be protected from bullying.

Ursula Assis, country director at Dibber International Preschools, comments:

The reality of bullying in preschool

Bullying is not confined to older children; it can manifest as early as in preschool – a reality confirmed in South African author Marion Scher’s recently launched book, Big Bully: An epidemic of unkindness.

The adverse effects of bullying – such as self-image issues, depression, anxiety and school problems – can be significant even when experienced at a young age. This underscores the importance of addressing bullying at the preschool level.

With this in mind, when speaking to a possible school for your child, ask the following questions, as the potential of bullying at this level is a reality and you need to ensure the school takes it seriously:

• What is the school’s policy regarding bullying?

• How does the school actively prevent it?

• How will staff handle a reported incident?

Parents should seek information on the school’s official stance on bullying and understand its preventive strategies. Ask about programmes or initiatives aimed at creating a respectful and inclusive environment for all children. The answers you receive must be very clear, direct and based on an official school policy.

How do staff members participate in fostering a positive social and emotional environment?

Parents should ask about staff involvement in children’s social and emotional development, not just academic achievements. Staff actively engaging in children’s play and daily life creates a more inclusive and empathetic atmosphere.

We maintain a zero-tolerance policy for bullying, exclusion and all forms of discrimination at Dibber. We believe in actively preventing these issues through our Heart Culture and the daily interactions in our preschools and understand that fostering social competence, friendship and a positive psychosocial learning environment is vital to reducing the risk of bullying.

Additionally, our staff is trained  to pay attention to signs of bullying, report any concerns, investigate issues thoroughly, and take appropriate measures to address bullying and create a safe space for children.

Bullying prevention starts at an early age, and it is the shared responsibility of educators, parents and the community. We must acknowledge this to ensure children in our care enjoy a safe and nurturing environment, free from the harmful effects of bullying.

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