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

Bullying in school toilets: Experiences of secondary school learners in a South African township

Ndumiso Daluxolo Ngidi, Relebohile Moletsane


This article reports on a qualitative study that explored bullying in the learner toilets of a township secondary school in South Africa and the reasons for its persistence in this particular school. The exploratory study used focus group discussions to collect data to address the research question. Newman’s ‘defensible space’ framework, which stipulates that the design of an area, as well as its physical settings, can facilitate violence, informs data analysis. In the study, learners experienced toilets as the most dangerous areas inside their school, reporting that they encountered a lot of bullying in these spaces. In particular, bullying in the school toilets was characterised by violence, including physical and sexual assaults, as well as criminal activity (mostly muggings) and threats of violence. According to learners, the toilets and what happened within them were removed and hidden from the teachers’ view and supervision, leaving the victims at the mercy of the bullies and perpetrators of violence. Informed by these findings, we conclude that because of their physical design and location within the school, which made it difficult to exercise any supervisory duties or to enforce security measures and protect learners, the toilets in this school remained indefensible spaces.

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