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Lunchbox Bullies on JMAN.tv - The Best Documentaries... Instantly On Demand

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Lunchbox Bullies Length: 48mins
Published: 13 Jan, 2010
“We have a problem”, admits Patrick, the teacher, struggling to control his class of noisy eight year olds. In the back of the class a good looking boy nicknamed ‘Obama’ pins Gift, the son of an AIDS victim, against the wall: “Obama is always beating me and teasing me about my mother” sobs Gift. Both come from troubled backgrounds where poverty, neglect and abuse are facts of life, yet Gift has something Obama doesn’t have: “our bullies don’t get any love at home”, explains the school principal, “they don’t know what it is”.

“I couldn’t communicate with them until I understood their backgrounds”, says Patrick. He soon discovered that neglect was deep-rooted in Obama’s family history: “Obama’s grandmother didn’t care about her children so Obama’s mother doesn’t care about hers”. And that simple hunger was driving Thabo to hit girls: “Thabo is angry because he goes to school without food every day”. Yet whilst all guardians are able to see why their children are misbehaving, most have no idea what to do about it.

“Obama steals and beats people up”, explains his uncle sadly, “Once I caught him pulling a knife on a group of boys. I beat him but it doesn’t seem to be working”. Many are hostile to the accusations of the school: “What must I do?”, cries Ghundi’s aunt, “I must discipline him. I was disciplined!” It’s a pattern of violence, continued by the children themselves. “Violence is normal for these children”, sighs principal Thembi, “and that’s why they hit girls”.

“I’m not happy”, says Tshidi, looking at her too-small shoes, “if I say anything, they tell me to go back to Zimbabwe”. The boys often taunt Tshidi by putting food on her desk. Yet when asked why they bully, the boys break down: “I go to school without money or food for lunch”, sobs Thabo. “My uncle beats me when I haven’t done anything”, cries Obama.

For some it’s too late: “Thabo will drop out in a year” , predicts Principal Thembi, “he’s already started cutting class”. Yet others still have dreams, to be a “businesswoman”, a “soldier”, or quite simply: “like this man I know who has a house and a car”. This beautifully observed documentary, begs the question: what must be done for these dreams to one day be realized?

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