SA Journal of Education, Volume 38, Supplement 1, October 2018

Understanding bullying relationally

Brigitte Smit


In this article, bullying in South African schools is conceptualised regarding both the phenomenon and the leadership style using a relational framework. An instrumental case study nested in social constructivism was applied. I employed semi-structured interviews, including some open-ended questionnaires, based on the same interview questions. Research participants were sampled purposively, after selecting a few schools that were part of a larger research project investigating bullying with the aim of countering this problem. To this end, I sourced data from 12 principals in these schools to inquire into their leadership style, and the possible ways in which a relational stance might assist in combatting this social and educational dilemma in schools. Empirical data revealed that in many cases where the school principals honed values such as care and relational attributes in their daily leadership practices, learners were more likely to respond to the relational and caring practices that they witnessed and experienced. A relational leadership style could assist in countering bullying, setting caring and supportive examples for both teachers and learners, adding much worth to a favourable educational landscape.

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