SA Journal of Education, Vol 41, No 1 (2021)

Boys and bullying in primary school: Young masculinities and the negotiation of power

Emmanuel Mayeza, Deevia Bhana


In this article, we draw on data from focus group discussions to examine the ways in which some young boys in a South African township primary school construct and negotiate hegemonic masculinity through bullying, and other forms of violence, within the school. Deviating from the simplistic victim-bully binary, we draw from critical masculinity studies to show how younger boys exert power over girls through violence but are, themselves, also victims of violence which, they say, is perpetrated by girls. Boys are often identified as bullies at school, but when we gave them the opportunity to talk about what it meant to be a bully, we gained a far more complex picture of how bullying behaviour manifests between learners at school. Indeed, our participants’ accounts of violence at school gave us great insights into the complexities of gender violence and highlighted the broader socio-cultural and economic conditions that produce it. We conclude that it is vital to understand the mechanisms of gender power relations among primary school learners, if primary school violence prevention interventions are to be effective.

ORCiD iDs of authors:
Emmanuel Mayeza -
Deevia Bhana -

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