Checking bullying, toxic masculinity in schools with Kings Club
In the light of recent manifestation of bullying, cultism and sexual, and gender based violence being witnessed in a number of schools and to commemorate 2021’s 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV), the Lagos State government, through the Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency (DSVRA), held a sensitisation debate on sexual violence among schools in districts 2 and 6.
While student participants were drawn from schools in the two districts, the debaters were from Mende Junior and Senior High School and Immaculate Hearts Comprehensive Junior and Senor High School.
The Kings Club, founded by the state government, is an alliance of young boys advocating positive masculinity and eschewing such negative vices as bullying, cultism, truancy, substance abuse, rape and other forms of sexual violence.
The agency’s Executive Secretary, Titilola Vivour-Adeniyi, said it has become germane to hear from boys what their challenges and struggles are, what they’re going through, areas they need help and how they can access help, among other factors.
Adeniyi explained that presently, the club has been established in two educational districts (2 and 6), with the intention to expand to cover more districts by this year.
He said: “Today, there are so many issues that boys are dealing with, and the society in which these boys are growing up is a cause for concern. We have all heard of the unfortunate bullying incidence that led to the death of a young boy, but it should never have got to that level. The state government is particularly saddened by it and has vowed that such must never happen again. We are taking steps in that direction to ensure it doesn’t occur again.
“First, we must enlighten young boys on why bullying and cultism are unacceptable and how they must have a trusted person they can report any cases to. Also, we must know how to escalate such incidences and move to ensure that the perpetrators are cautioned.”
United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) child protection specialist, Dennis Onoise, said the Kings Club programme is very important, as it focuses on boys alone.
“The society and parents especially have a strong role to play in bringing up these boys. Civil society groups also have a role to play in educating boys by holding programmes such as this. We must begin to sensitise young boys on the dangers of bullying and cultism. Once they know the real life consequences of these vices, it is very possible that they get discouraged from partaking in them.”
He lamented that though the state government has the child safeguarding and protection policy, which was signed into law in 2016 and was supposed to be given to every single person and body that work with children in the state, just like all schools in the state, but nothing much is being done in this regard.
“To our greatest shock and disappointment, this has not been properly disseminated to date, and child workers are still not being trained in it. What the state government must do now is to ask all schools and their teachers if they have the child safeguarding policy in place and if it is being practised. When we did our findings, we discovered that the bullying is only going on in the boys’ side of the hostel and not on the female side. This shows the boys were left alone to bring up themselves. They started bullying those they felt they could bully, because there was nobody to checkmate their activities or enforce the rules.”
Child protection specialist, Taiwo Akinlami of Taiwo Akinlami Foundation noted that society must not be abandoned to vices, since what is not improved upon will degenerate. He urged parents to also invest in their children’s behavioural pattern, and not just the learning aspect. In his view, it is sad that the club is not being established in private schools that seem to need it the most.
“We want boys to realise that the strength they have is not meant for bullying or brutalising girls or other boys they think are weaker than them. We have been able to checkmate some toxic notions they previously held, replacing them with healthy accountability and positive masculinity. Rome wasn’t built in a day and we don’t expect to speak with them today and begin to see changes tomorrow. However, with constant and repeated positive masculinity and awareness, we will achieve the desired change we want to see in our society.”