Three years ago, Njabulo Zulu was bullied by fellow learners at a private school because she was “black like a shoe polish”.
In fact, the bullies told her she was too black to be at the Kempton Park school she had been at since the age of 6.
“That rejection made me hate myself. I started to believe that I did not belong in that school,” Njabulo said.
After she completed Grade 3, Njabulo was removed from the private school and enrolled at Padisago Primary School back at home in Soshanguve.
There, she was mocked again for being too dark.
She also had to endure sarcasm at her new school because of her black, bushy hair, which looked different. “I remember three boys in my class came to me and tugged my hair. They wanted to know what was wrong with my hair. They wanted to see if this was really my hair,” the now Grade 7 learner, aged 12, said.
While the treatment at her new school deepened her pain, she refused to allow it to bring her down.
Her mother played a crucial role, constantly telling her she was beautiful in the face of all the challenges.
The idea of starting an anti-bullying campaign dawned on her and the rest is history.
“I started the campaign because I wanted to become a motivational speak. I didn’t want any child to go through what I went through,” Njabulo said.
Her first public speaking experience was at school, where she addressed her peers about bullying and how it made others feel bad about themselves. “The response was positive. I think at least 5% of bullies were converted and stopped their bullying behaviour.” As she continued to motivate others, many changed “and now in my school I believe that there are no more bullies”.
“Whatever I told them they took to heart. One of them came to me and confessed that bullying was wrong,” she said.
Njabulo is also a junior preacher at her church and presenter on TUT FM. She hosts a Sunday morning show, Bokang Jehovah. “I preach to kids and sometimes to adults.”
Njabulo dreams of becoming a paediatrician, photographer, dentist, actress and TV presenter.
“I would like to meet Anele Mdoda, Connie Ferguson, Dr Tshepo Motsepe and Oprah Winfrey.”
She said these media personalities inspired her in many ways.
“Ferguson is an actress. I believe she can tell me everything about acting. Motsepe can tell me everything about being a doctor. Mdoda is a presenter and motivational speaker. Oprah inspires me a lot I am so in love with her.”
Njabulo said she didn’t think bullying was motivated by racism.
“I didn’t think about their race. It is for the first time I am thinking of that today. I think they might have had family problems at home,” she said.
Her mother, Dudu Zulu, 34, believed her daughter’s traumatic experience was “God’s way to allow her to be able to go out there and motivate others”.
Njabulo recently appeared on a children’s show on TV and since then her Facebook in-box has been flooded by messages from children seeking her help. In September, Njabulo plans to host an anti-bullying event with about 50 girls.
Main image copyright: Jacques Naude African African Agency (ANA).
Written by: RAPULA MOATSHE