Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General, UNESCO
Ms Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO
Mr Jean-Michel Blanquer, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, France: Our Host
All fellow Ministers from Member countries
Fellow leaders, activists and experts from around the world
We thank you, French Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, Mr Jean-Michel Blanquer and the leadership of UNESCO for convening this global forum on school bullying.
We are delighted to mark the first International Day against Violence and Bullying at School, including Cyberbullying together with our peers across the globe.
The discourse on schools’ safety is a significant public interest issue as it affects the most vulnerable members of society, our children.
The irony, of course, is that the bully has a new friend in the form of modern gadgets such as 3rd generation cell-phones and new playgrounds as in the social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
While as a global community, we must accelerate the adoption of the latest technologies for teaching, learning and commerce, we must be mindful of its unintended consequences.
These include empowering bullies to find new avenues to prey on their chosen victims.
These bullies did so in 2020 with renewed vigour, of course, hiding behind anonymity guaranteed by the latest developments in communication technologies.
As a global community, we must push back against the bullies on the playground, behind Twitter walls and those lurking in the shadows of Instagram's glamorous life.
On behalf of the Republic of South Africa, I convey our support for this initiative. I wish to pledge the willingness of South Africa to take part in the global initiative to develop a universal protocol against violence and bullying at schools, including cyberbullying.
We urge social media platforms such as Facebook to deploy Machine Learning and the Artificial Intelligence Technology (AI) to weed out bullies and their poisonous bullying content online.
As a global community, we must lift the veil of silence, and encourage victims of bullying to speak out and to seek healing through telling their stories to peers and psychosocial professionals.
All victims of bullying deserve protection from school authorities, society and owners of social media networks.
As a country, South Africa is working in partnership with the German Development Cooperation (GIZ), UNICEF, and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) amongst others to stem the tide of violence against learners in South Africa. We have since formed an Action Group on violence prevention and child protection.
The Action Group aims to provide a coordinated approach to respond to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the safety of learners from bullying, gender-based violence and other forms of violence meted out against school-going children.
Programme Director; long before COVID-19, the Republic of South Africa had developed an E-Safety Guidelines to respond to incidents of cyberbullying.
We have also developed and trained teachers on the guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Bullying (including cyber and homophobic bullying) in schools.
As a country, we are ready to impart our knowledge as well as learn from our peers as we continue to work together to end violence and bullying at schools, including cyberbullying.
We thank the Government of France and the leadership of UNESCO for convening this global forum to protect our children from bullies.