Bullying: Stakeholders blame poor enforcement of discipline, parental neglect
Some stakeholders in the South East have blamed incessant bullying in various schools across the country to poor enforcement of discipline and lack of parental care for students.
They made their views known in a survey on the menace and solutions of bullying in schools conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
In Imo, a former Education Commissioner, Dr Jude Obi, said poor enforcement of discipline in various schools in Nigeria was responsible for rising cases of bullying among students.
Obi also attributed poor implementation of Parents Teachers Association (PTA) resolutions as another factor causing bullying in schools.
He said there were several resolutions which PTAs had taken to curtail bullying in schools, but such decisions were not implemented.
He said example of such resolutions was the installation of CCTV cameras in various students’ hostels to check activities of students.
Meanwhile, some teachers in the state told NAN that children who were bullies in schools were usually those with parents who were unavailable to their children.
Mrs Ezinwanne Iloabuchi, a secondary school teacher, said that such children went against school rules as a cry for attention from parents or role models.
Iloabuchi said when such children outgrew that stage they became aggressive and took their anger out on other students.
She, therefore, urged parents to do pay proper attention to their children to stop the problem before it got out of hand.
Another teacher, Mr Emmanuel Nwachukwu, also faulted parents for being too busy to monitor their children’s progress and to take appropriate actions.
Nwachukwu said that PTAs were no longer active in schools, adding that parents did not prioritise such activities at the detriment of their children.
He said that parents often fought teachers when they took punitive measures against bullies rather than correct their children.
The Chairman of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Mr Theo Mbakwe recommended dialogue and proper guidance and counselling as measures to end bullying.
He stressed that corporal punishment would only make children hardened and would not address the root causes of bullying.
However, stakeholders in Abakaliki have decried the increasing incidences of bullying and other antisocial activities among secondary school students in Ebonyi.
They urged school authorities and education managers in the state to rise to the challenge.
Bullying, which is defined as any unwanted, aggressive behaviour among school age children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance, had forced many to drop out of school.
The respondents regretted that moral decadence and the prevalence of cultism in secondary schools had further contributed in reinforcing the culture of bullying among secondary school students.
Mr Philip Agbo, a lecturer in the Department of Psychology, Ebonyi State University (EBSU) noted that bullying involved physical assault usually perpetrated by senior students against the junior ones.
Agbo said that bullying had been in existence and being practised by students in Nigerian schools which began in the early 80s.
He listed corporal punishment, forced collection of beverages and other items of junior students by their senior colleagues as well as physical assault as dimensions of bullying in secondary schools.
The don added that in contemporary times, junior students were bullied and forced to join secret cults against their wish.
“Bullying and harassment are pervasive problems in our schools, affecting at least 70 per cent of the student body.
“For years, these behaviours have been overlooked, ignored, or viewed as part of ‘normal’ development.
“However, we now know that these actions can have significant adverse effects on both perpetrators and victims.
“We must come together and collectively work to eliminate this trend in our schools,” Agbo said.
Agbo said that bullying could affect everyone including those who bullied, those that were being bullied as well as those who witnessed the bullying.
“Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes including impacts on mental health, substance use, and suicide among other vices,” he added.
Mr Emenike Onwe, a parent, said that maltreatment of junior students by their senior colleagues had taken a dangerous turn leading to indiscriminate abuse of the junior students in both government and private owned secondary schools.
“Unfortunately, the perpetrators of these evil acts against their fellow students are hardly brought to justice because they always intimidate their victims from speaking out.
“They threaten their victims with more punishment should they dare speak out or report the act to anyone including school authority” Onwe said.
Onwe, who recalled how his 15 year old daughter in one of the secondary schools in the state was forced to pack human faeces with her bare hands, described bullying as a violation of human dignity of a person.
“My daughter in her JSS 1 in 2016 and was forced to pack another person faeces with her bare hands. She was also coerced to use a ‘tea’ cup to fill a bucket of water by fetching rain water during a heavy rain fall at night.
“She could not open up to any of the teachers or school management for several weeks after the incident for fear of further punishment.
“Her friend who lived in the same hostel who witnessed the torture told my wife during one of the visiting days and we immediately took the matter to the authority who investigated the incident.
“The perpetrators of the dastardly act were eventually punished but I had to withdraw my daughter from the school,” Onwe added.
A teacher in Federal Girls Government College (FGGC), Ezzamgbo, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the school had zero tolerance for bullying of any kind.
The source noted that any student who was reported to have engaged in any form of bullying risked either suspension or expulsion depending on the degree of the bullying.
“We encourage the junior ones to report or speak out whenever they are oppressed by the senior ones,” the source said.
Meanwhile, Mr Michael Ebiri, a member of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) of FGGC said that PTA had roles to play in stemming the tide of bullying among secondary students.
“The menace of bullying in secondary schools will be better addressed when key stakeholders including PTAs, Old Boys and Old Girls associations join forces with government and their schools to launch campaign against bullying,” he said.
In Enugu State, the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Uchenna Eze, says the state ministry of education also had zero tolerance for a student punishing a fellow student and unhealthy students’ groups within schools.
Eze told NAN that the ministry had given the strong warning to school authorities concerning these issues.
He said school authorities had been warned not to allow any prefect to punish a junior student but they should refer to the school’s guardian counselor, principal or a teacher/lecturer so delegated to administer a punishment.
“In the recent past, we have sensed abuse in the direction of students punishing fellow students and that informed the directive.
“Under the ministry’s watch, we will not tolerate any form of unhealthy groups and gang ups in our schools.
“We had some unhealthy development in that direction some years past, which the ministry stopped the trend in dispatch.
“Then, all students in post primary schools in the state and their parents to sign an undertaking for their wards to being of good character and conduct as well as stipulating suspension and outright expulsion for students involved in such unhealthy groups or act.’’
He said that the ministry was fine-tuning modalities to ensure protection of teachers and lecturers, adding: “we are living in a changing time and there is need to protect our teachers/lecturers from molestation from pupils.”
Eze said that before the end of the term, the ministry would hold a wide stakeholders meeting on how to further improve security in schools, robust monitoring and measures to deal with emerging threats to a safe environment for learning.
The commissioner said that education was all about character moulding and reformation.
Meanwhile, some stakeholders in the education sector have recommended suspension and expulsion as panacea to bullying among students in secondary schools across the country.
They are of the opinion that bullying arguably had posed a great threat to a child’s behavioural development and academic pursuit and had brought lifelong scars on some students.
A teacher, Mrs Agnes Chidi, said bullying had become so common among students, adding that some junior students lived in fear because of what seniors would do to them if they reported their bullying attitudes.
“I suggest that schools add punishments for bullying in their prospectus and any student caught doing it will be dealt with.
“Schools should discourage gangs and unhealthy groups among students,” Chidi said.
According to her, it is through these gangs and unhealthy groups that they form cults and parents should monitor behaviour of their wards, especially ones that live in schools.
Mr Oliver Agbo, the School Administrator, God’s Best School, Enugu attributed the cause of bullying among students to greed, jealousy and hatred; while challenging those suffering bullying in schools to speak up and report to their teachers/lecturers.
Agbo said that out of jealousy and greed a senior student would want to collect things that belonged to a junior student which he did not have and once junior refused, bullying would set in.
“This is very rampant among those students living in boarding schools. Some stronger ones will take what belongs to the their juniors such as their provisions forcefully,” he said.
A parent, Mrs Ogechi Ogugua, said bullying among students existed because of negligence by the school management and teachers.
Ogugua alleged that most schools did nothing when a case of bullying was reported, leaving the victims to their own fate.
“At times, the reported cases of intimidation of a student by another student will be swept under the carpet because the perpetrator is the son or daughter of a certain rich person.
“The school itself is afraid of losing its financial stakeholder; hence they allow bullying to thrive,” she noted.
Mrs Chinwe Ugwu, the Vice Principal (Administration), Federal Government College, Enugu, said that bullying was a serious crime in the school; adding that wounding of a fellow student indiscriminately amounts to indefinite suspension or expulsion.
“We have gone to their classes to tell them the implications of bullying and recently, we de-boarded eight students because of bullying,” she said.
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.