Salesians Young Burns-Survivor Says No to Schoolyard Bullies
In June 2014, Salesian Life Choices launched the 30 Stories in 30 Days campaign to celebrate National Youth Month. The campaign shares one inspirational youth story a day for the month of June, honouring young people and their life struggles.
“The campaign is a showcase of the post-apartheid Born Frees and their personal stories of triumph over adversity,” said Salesian Life Choices managing director Sofia Neves.
One such story is that of Thalitha Sabile, 17, of Cape Town, a serious burns-survivor with prominent scars on her face, who believes she is now bullyproof after enduring verbal abuse from schoolmates.
Thalitha’s burns resulted from boiling porridge her mother had left to cool. “I ran, picked it up, and I can’t fully remember what happened next but the porridge fell all over my face and neck,” she said.
“I began screaming. My mom came immediately, tried to wash it off with cold water.”
She was quickly taken to Red Cross Children’s Hospital, where she stayed for two weeks, with another two weeks in a convalescent hospital. Thalitha had multiple operations, and three times a year would visit the surgeon for her scar tissue.
She remembers how naive she was after leaving hospital for the first time. “I was so happy to be home and to be able to go back to school. Everyone was very supportive, and my mom kept telling me how beautiful I was. The only thing I noticed as different was how some people stared at me in the street.”
However, in Grade 6, in a new school, Thalitha faced a tough reality: the main languages were English and Afrikaans, which she wasn’t proficient in, and she didn’t know anyone at the school.
How Thalitha Coped
She was singled out by bullies because of her scars and insulted daily. “For the first time, I felt I was less, and each time they called me names I would run back to class. I was embarrassed and stopped liking myself. I isolated myself.”
Thalitha’s mom encouraged her to report the bullies to teachers and there were times she did. The bullies faced repercussions such as detention and this had some effect.
At the beginning of Grade 7, a year after starting at the new school, she changed her response to taunts.
“During the holidays, I began telling myself I needed to step up. They picked on me because I was new, and didn’t have it in me to fight back. A bully is trying to boost his or her ego or satisfy his/her friends. No, I will not be bullied again.”
Thalitha has forgiven bullies. “I forgot their names and even their faces. They wouldn’t know if I had a grudge, so what’s the point?”
She says beyond our physical appearances we all have much more valuable traits: “Mine are: I am intelligent. I am strong. I am a survivor.”
To read past stories in the 30 Stories in 30 Days campaign visit www.lifechoices.co.za/voice/30-stories