Addressing the menace of bullying among students
Bullying, a situation where stronger children prey on the weakness and vulnerability of others, has sadly become a worrisome issue among children in our country, especially those in secondary schools.
It is a common phenomenon in Nigerian schools especially, among boarding schools students. Though unacceptable, it is becoming the norm, rather than an aberration and has become very dangerous and bizarre.
Bullying involves negative physical or verbal actions with hostile intent. It is sometimes intended to cause harm and distress to the victims, and it is repeated over time. It is characterized by a power differential between the bullies and their victims.
Bullying manifests in many forms, which include harassment, hounding, maltreatment, intimidation, oppression and discrimination among others. It is normally inflicted by the senior students on the juniors. In fact it is seen as a rite of passage in some schools. It is shocking to discover that children that are presumed innocent could perpetrate such evil against fellow youngsters.
Naturally, compassion, sympathy, empathy, care, kindness, love, and forgiveness, to mention but a few, are usually associated with children.
Normally, the sight of pain, weakness or vulnerability should elicit compassion among children. Thus, a situation where the reverse is the case signals a deep-rooted problem.
Globally, the impact of this despicable act among children cannot be over-emphasized. There are cases of children who have become victims of depression, suicidal tendencies, bitterness and hatred as a result of the negative impact of bullying.
The death of 12-year-old Sylvester Oromomi, a student of Dowen College, Lekki, as a result of an injury sustained in school via physical assault by a group of bullies, has no doubt, taken bullying to a disturbing dimension in our country.
It is rather distressing that life so precious could be snuffed out in such very pathetic circumstances. What could have led to such depravity of character?
How could such have gone unnoticed in a school setting, which is meant to be a safe haven for children? What form of upbringing and training were these children actually exposed to?
These and many other questions begging for answers have been generating a wide range of reactions and ripples across the country. What has actually compounded the whole issue is that many others have been coming out to recount their own diverse tales of bullying.
In order to reverse the ugly trend, teachers, parents, guardians and caregivers need to be on the lookout for signs of bullying and address them promptly.
In most cases, the victims of bullying don’t want to speak out or report for fear of the aggressor. However, there are signals or signs that could readily show that a child is being bullied.
These include constant loss of personal belongings such as shoes, beverages or socks, which is usually taken by the aggressor. Often, the victim is denied these personal things by the bully, while the parents usually assume that the child was careless.
Similarly, when you notice unexplainable injury on your wards, you must investigate until you get to the root of the matter. At times, such injuries could be inflicted by the aggressor. Anxiety, withdrawal syndrome and loss of sleep are other notable signs of bullying.
Also, school teachers, caregivers, and school owners must be able to account for the whereabouts of every student during school hours and thereafter. A situation where a junior student is serving punishment or locked up somewhere, while classes are on or when the siesta is being observed should not be condoned.
It has been observed that most boarding schools in the country don’t separate junior hostels from seniors’ and most of the bullying takes place in the hostel where the senior is more or less the lord. It is, therefore, necessary to separate the hostels and ensure that any senior found within the residences of the junior is dealt with.
Specifically, schools must educate students on the ills of bullying and outlaw it. The school system, culture, and values should be such that they do not condone or encourage bullying in any way. School prefects should be taught to correct, not to punish; correction doesn’t have to be always punitive.
It has been estimated that children that bully are mostly from troubled backgrounds, broken homes, and might have suffered varied forms of abuse or low self-esteem at one time or the other.
Every individual is an extension of a home and a family; armed robbers, criminals, terrorists are from a family. Likewise, crime fighters, missionaries, philanthropists, inventors of life-changing inventions, and the likes are also products of a family.
Essentially, the family is, perhaps, the most powerful unit of socialization and change in society. Hence, parents and guardians have a crucial role of imparting morals and ethics in their children/wards.
This is not to be done by mere teaching or speaking, but by deliberating inculcating vital virtues and norms in the children through positive action and reinforcement because children model their parents.
As parents, you don’t teach a child to love without showing love to that child. In the same vein, you don’t teach a child kindness without treating people around you with kindness. The way you treat your house helps or domestic workers speak volumes and these children learn by example.
Equally, the way that couples relate with themselves and the children also go a long way in forging a stable loving environment where children can thrive and develop the right emotional, physical, and social attributes that will enable them to add the right value to society.
Accordingly, society must be seen to promote and encourage principles that engender truth, fairness, and equality; children must not only be seen but they must also be heard and protected.
We must all come to realize and accept that when society permits or allows the prey of the innocence and vulnerability of the weak, then it digs its own grave. The society must, therefore, stand up and say no to bullying in every ramification.
Aruya is Assistant Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja