Saturday, 3rd June 2023

How poor parenting, waning moral quotient trigger bullying 

By Eno-Abasi Sunday, Deputy Editor
12 December 2021   |   4:22 am
Ibiduni Osunkeye works for a private accounting firm in Abuja, but the first time that her only son, a 13-year old, complained of being bullied in a high-brow Lagos-based private school,

Closed Dowen College, Lekki, Lagos…last week

Ibiduni Osunkeye works for a private accounting firm in Abuja, but the first time that her only son, a 13-year old, complained of being bullied in a high-brow Lagos-based private school, she obtained permission from the office, jetted to Lagos the same day, and told the school authorities to caution the bully, stressing that she would not condone such behaviour the second time. 
Typical of some private schools’ management, scant heed was paid to the warning and the bully went back to his trade. Pronto, Mrs. Oshunkeye, again flew into Lagos, headed to the school, and without hesitation, withdrew her only child from there.
Expectedly, some of her friends and family members felt that she blew the lid over what they described as “a normal thing” in secondary schools, but she was emphatic that she would do the same thing if her son ever complained about being bullied in the new school.
According to her: “If you have a child that is bold enough to complain about being bullied in school, bring the issue to the knowledge of the school authorities immediately. I am using the word ‘bold’ because some of the pupils that are being bullied are so timid to the point that they cannot disclose to their parents, what they are facing in school. When a senior student manhandles a junior student, the average 12 or 13-year-old is most likely not going to tell his parents what happened, especially if the senior student threatens to kill him or her, the way they are doing now. So, there is a need for parents to act swiftly once they notice any such untoward development,” she admonished.

Until lately, Ifeyinwa Udodi would have taken a different route altogether in handling such an issue, but she now thinks differently and would go Oshunkeye’s way. 
“Before now, I always insisted that bullying must be really serious and the school authorities not doing enough to address it before parents contemplate getting into the mix, or changing schools for their wards, because whether we like it or not, some kind of subtle bullying still happens in many schools in this country, daily. While some schools don’t take such seriously, because bullying is an age-long thing, others don’t want to hear of it at all. But with the recent case that we have at hand, I have concluded that leaving things a bit too late might ultimately result in a child’s death.” 
No tale could be more heart-wrenching than a youngster, who was sent to school to acquire knowledge, being returned to his/her parents in a body bag, all because those paid to do the job failed in their responsibilities, handled same in a slipshod manner, or the system generally failed the learner.
Sadly, that is the condition that the Oromonis find themselves in now that their 12-year-old Sylvester Oromoni Jnr was cut down midstream, and in very controversial circumstances.
Oromoni Jnr, a Junior Secondary School (JSS) Two student of Dowen College, Lagos State, allegedly died from injuries he sustained after being beaten by some senior students of the school for refusing to join a clandestine group. To date, his family insists he was bullied by five senior students on Friday, November 26 (at the school) before he eventually died on Tuesday, November 30.
The family’s position is in sharp contrast with that of the school, which claimed that the boy died after sustaining an injury during a football match. 
Much as the world is questioning the intensity of a school football match that is capable of inducing such life-threatening injuries, hordes of groups and individuals have risen in condemnation of the continuous toleration of bullying in schools, and the failure to put an end to the scourge.

Age-long Menace Defying Solutions
BEFORE now, researches had shown that it was more common for bullying to take place in the classroom in government schools than in private schools. That has since changed, as both government and mission-owned institutions, as well as privately-owned schools, are all tarred with the same brush. Indeed, across the entire spectrum, hardly does a day go by without reports of incidents of school bullying, or recommendations for its ending being bandied in education circles.

Over the years, experts have maintained that bullying among schoolchildren is a very old phenomenon. This, perhaps, explains why today’s parents are still recalling the gruelling episodes that they underwent at the hands of bullies decades ago.
While a bully is defined as a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker, experts maintain that when parents that tolerate psychologically manipulative behaviours among kids, watch siblings cause discomfort to weaker ones, or give them undue advantage over the others, they are unwittingly encouraging bullying.
Put differently, bullying starts from an early age at home when mind games are either discountenanced by parents, or little attention paid to the victim of their children’s bad behaviour.
According to the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), which provides expertise about all forms of bullying between children and young people, bullying is the “repetitive, intentional hurting of one person, or group, by another person, or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power.”

Among other things, bullying has dire consequences on the psyche of the one being bullied, including making him/her feel subdued, worthless, or even suffer a loss of self-confidence.
Beyond the nation’s boundaries, the bully/victim problem has existed in other climes. For instance, in the 1980s and the earlier part of 1990s, when bullies in Australia, Japan, the United States and England had a field day, the matter enjoyed widespread attention to the point that it became a societal, as well as research interest area. 

Cry For Justice, Compulsory Child Protection Policy Swells
AS educators and parents work to create safe learning environments, especially in the wake of the Oromoni tragedy, interest groups and individuals are not only demanding justice, they canvas far-reaching changes and compulsory child protection policy in Lagos schools.

Additionally, they are also emphatic in their submission that with family as the smallest unit of the society, parents must add value to parenting to nip brutish tendencies in the bud.
For instance, the Lagos State Chapter of Child Protection Network (CPN), while calling for a thorough investigation in the matter, also stressed that justice must be served to all parties involved.
A statement signed by the state Coordinator of the group, Aderonke Oyelakin read: “Most school owners and staff need proper orientation on the protection of children in their care because their manners of protecting these children sometimes are worrisome. We, therefore, call on the state government to effectively monitor the same.
“The Lagos State Child Protection Network says all schools have full responsibility in respect of their duty of care to protect children and to support pupils/students in the school. These givers/teachers have day-to-day contact with individual children during school terms. They are, therefore, particularly well placed to observe outward signs of abuse, changes in behaviour, or failure to develop…Teachers, teaching assistants and other school supervisors should note that reporting the suspicion of child abuse, ‘in good faith’ exempts them from sanction by the law.
“We demand an abuse-free environment for children in Lagos State irrespective of the kind of school they attend, private or government.
“We demand that child protection policy should be mandatory for every school or place, where children are and must be pasted in a conspicuous area within the premises. In case of any mishap or abuse, while in the school’s custody, the caregivers/teachers and support staff must be responsible and accountable for their safety,” the group said.
For brutes in school uniforms, the reign of terror that they seek to foist on the society is not just between fellow students, it is also between them and schools’ authorities, as well as law enforcement agencies.
For instance, if they are not ripping apart a Divisional Police Officer (DPO’s) forehead as it happened in Ogun State a fortnight ago, they are unleashing terror on teachers and security personnel the way they did in Edo State, last week when Students of Idogbo Secondary School in Ikpoba-Okha Local Council, went on a rampage, destroying cars, office equipment and buildings in their schools.

Homes As Breeding Grounds For Future Bullies
AS the reprehensible behaviour of delinquent schoolchildren continues to attract opprobrium across all divides, CPN, like many other well-meaning members of the society, thinks that some of the dramatis personae in this theatre of the absurd are victims of poor parenting. 

Oyelakin the group’s chief asked: “The question is, who is raising these children that committed these acts? Parents need to do more and know who their children are. You need to know if your child is a bully, or an accomplice to a bully, or even a bystander when another child is being bullied. Parents also need to ask themselves whether they are contributing to making their children victims of bullying.”
She regretted that most parents have outsourced their grooming responsibilities to the schools, which are mostly interested in the school fees. She therefore advised parents to be deliberate and conscious of their roles in raising kind, confident, and amiable children who can speak up, stand up and give bullies a run for their money. 
The Principal of Bright Rainbow High School, Mushin, Lagos State, Mr. Ajani Azeez, shares the belief that lack of moral values, and parents’ inability to live right constitute bullying enablers. 
He explained: “If a parent fails to correct his/her ward or child when they put up manipulative behaviours, this could also affect the children in later life. Since there is a saying that ‘like begets like,’ aggressive parents will naturally breed aggressive children because children learn more from what they see their parents do.”
Most parents are unaware that some of the character traits exhibited by their kids should be exterminated before they begin to take root. Asked what red flags that parents should look out for in this regards. He responded: “Parents should critically observe the conduct of their children. If they bully their younger ones at home, they will surely bully their juniors in school. So, the first appropriate steps for them to take in curbing bullying includes, observing and monitoring their children’s character and behaviour towards their siblings. Children must, therefore be promptly scolded when found guilty of bullying other children,” he stated.
Enumerating factors that aid and abet bullying in schools, Azeez said: “The lack of strong rules and regulations against bullying, having over-aged pupils in class and in school, as well as laxity on the part of staff members,” even as he stressed that “lack of discipline, lack of parental care, and lack of counselling have joined forces to fuel anti-social behaviours in schools.”
Bullying An Off-shoot Of Child Neglect, Dearth Of Values
WITH the family being a microcosm of society, poor parenting and a dearth of sound values have a boomerang effect on the wellbeing of the society. Both Azeez and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO)/Lead Consultant, Coreskills Transformational Academy, Mrs. Toyin Sam-Emehelu, agree with this. 
Specifically, Azeez maintains that failure to correct children and wards when necessary leaves a putrid taste in the mouth, just the same way as indulging them does.
In expressing dissatisfaction with the way that some schools handle bullying cases, he said enough attention must be paid to the cankerworm for schools to be safe environments for learners. “So, I think corporal punishment should be meted out to bullies in schools, while others should be slammed with suspension. Importantly, campaigns should be staged to create awareness within the public on the imperatives of keeping schools free from bullies.
“Most parents do not have time for their wards, and this has led to children turning to their peers for attention, validation and identifying with them. For some other parents that even create time to connect with their kids, they may not even have the right parenting skills to apply. Parenting is a skill, every age and stage in a child’s life requires a different set of skills to adequately nurture and train the child. But once these skills are lacking, failed parenting ensues and effectively contributes to the surge in bullying that we are witnessing in our secondary schools today,” she stated.
Bullying fellow students and assaulting teachers are two sad issues that are occupying the front burner almost contemporaneously. So, what is lacking in our secondary education that has produced such uncouth products? Sam-Emehelu responded: “Schools do not exist in isolation; they are small units that stem from a larger society. What is happening in our secondary schools today is a reflection of what has been modelled consciously or unconsciously by adults in our society. 

Curbing The Menace, Restoring Sanity 
WITHOUT mincing words, the task of ridding schools of killer bullies cannot be decreed into existence having steadily sunk its roots into the school’s system. 
Consequently, there is the compelling need, according to Sam-Emehelu, to set our priorities right, and spare no efforts in showing good examples to the younger generation.
Said she: “Correcting the malaise goes beyond adding new subjects to the curriculum; young adults and children will do what they see their parents do, not what they are told to do. So, all stakeholders must take responsibility and perform their roles in raising the next generation of leaders. 
“The lack of functional guidance and counselling departments, inexperienced and unqualified teachers, unrealistic student to teacher ratio, and unnecessary academic workload on students just to mention a few, are some of the factors that have not made our secondary education fit for purpose.
“Also, self-confidence is a critical tool that helps a child that is on the verge of being bullied to speak out and stand up against bullies. Indeed, it plays an important role in helping pupils to overcome bullying because a self-confident child often has the skills required to cope in life-threatening situations. 

“There are also extant policy documents that have to do with child protection and safeguarding of their wellbeing that are in the custody of both the federal and states’ governments. What now remains to be done is for them to be made working documents and their provisions complied with. They must also be constantly updated and implemented in schools.
Aware of the fact that some parents sometimes leave things a little too late before swinging into action when their wards complain about being bullied, she emphasised: “It is important that parents act immediately as bullying has a very negative effect on children, not just physically, but also emotionally, socially, intellectually, as well as psychologically.
“When parents join issues with schools’ authorities over their allegedly bullied children and wards, it also allows the school to know that appropriate measures are put in place to forestall subsequent breaches. In the process of doing that, other children would be protected,” Sam-Emehelu concluded.
A career guidance counsellor, who does not want her name in print, described as reprehensible, the level of sexual harassment, cultism, bullying and sundry anti-social behaviours that are taking place in secondary schools.
The counsellor who alleged that leaving children in some boarding schools in the country could be likened to leaving them in the care of careless guardians stressed that if sanity must prevail, a multi-pronged approach must be in place.  
“Most importantly, the increasing lack of moral values on the part of learners, the lack of exemplars in both homes and the society must be urgently addressed. Some parents are brutes at home, and expecting their children to turn out as angels amounts to wishful thinking. Above all, the government must show a willingness to effectively deal with schools that condone bullying, and punish parents of bullies that work hard to insulate their sons/daughters from punishment.”