Some prominent people such as Shawn Mendes, Lady Gaga, and Eminem to mention just a few, have spoken of how they were victims of bullying during their childhood as well as explained the pain and hurt it brought them in later years. 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick committed suicide in Florida due to incessant bullying from her girl-mates lasting over a year. A few months ago, in Nigeria, the death of Sylvester Oromoni of a prominent college in the upper-class society caused an uproar in the state. All of these and many more examples point to one conclusion; bullying should never be tolerated and must be tackled as a major issue in the educational system.
Bullying is a form of aggression and violence, prevalent among children and adolescents, and characterized by two important features. Firstly, the aggression is often repeated and continuous. Also, bullying includes a form of power imbalance; that is, one person – often the bully, must be stronger than the other, the victim. The imbalance could be strength, popularity, or intellectual ability. One could be bullied through harassment, gossiping, rumour spreading, meanness, threats, or hurtful behaviours. It is expedient to note that bullying often takes place in unstructured settings such as playgrounds, in the hallways or secluded areas.
Bullying results from trying to control someone or making them feel inferior as a result of the perceived superiority of the victim over the bully. There are several types of bullying: physical, verbal, relational or reactive. Children who are non-natives, obese, or with disabilities are more likely to be victims of bullying. However, in whatever form it presents itself, the crux of the matter remains that bullying should be waged war against.
There are numerous effects bullying has on a child’s life. Victims of bullying are often hurt physically, emotionally, and even psychologically. The after-effects of bullying on victims are usually disastrous if not easily noticed and managed. Psychologically, victims are traumatized and suffer from low self-esteem years after the bullying had even been stopped. Victims often report feeling unwanted, unloved, isolated, depressed, anxious, helpless, and sometimes have trouble sleeping. Thus, there’s a higher chance of mental illnesses such as suicidal thoughts, clumsiness and social anxiety among victims of organized bullying. Physically, there would be symptoms of being brutalized such as headaches, dizziness, stomach aches and pain, and many more. Victims often exhibit strange behavioural and intellectual changes such as a steady decline in grades, getting to school or work late, as well as intentional avoidance of social gatherings. It becomes undeniable that the effects of bullying on a young adolescent are detrimental to his overall physical and social health.
It is quite ironic that bullies themselves also get affected negatively by the bullying scheme. Bullies tend to indulge in substance abuse, vandalism and a host of other social vices. In the long run, they often end up dropping out of school or slip into depression themselves. The discussion on how bullying affects society negatively could go on and on, but it is expedient to discuss our individual and corporate role in the reduction of bullying in the educational system.
Concerning the primary responsibility of curbing bullying, the first step is to start from the sole twin spaceship that drives children to planet Earth, i.e. the parents. Research shows that the parents of victims of bullying are often unaware of the occurrences of violence affecting their children. Parents should create a safe space that encourages easy communication with their children. They should also be very vigilant about their children’s physical and mental health. If signs and symptoms indicative of bullying are suspected, taking appropriate steps towards handling the matter efficiently should be taken. First, the parents of the victim should calmly inquire from the child what problem there is at school. Then, they should, in collaboration with the school authorities, proffer solutions without criticizing or condemning the child. Without contacting the bully’s parents, the school authorities where such happens should be alerted. Instilling self-confidence in children is a way to conquer bullying too. If necessary, medical attention should be sought for the proper treatment of the victim.
Also, teachers need to collaborate with the parents to achieve the desired results. Teachers and instructors of knowledge should equally be observant. They should set specific and positive expectations towards having good behaviours. Collaboration with parents makes it easier and possible to overcome the troll named bullying. Engraining the anti-bullying culture into the educational system would also help. If any case of victimization or bullying of a child arises, the teachers should be capable enough to provide emotional support.
Likewise, the school authorities must participate in the battle against bullying. There are a few rules the school as an entity must ensure are in place. For instance, both the parents and teachers of the school must be actively engaged in the reformation of bullying principles and the school is responsible for merging both of their efforts to achieve maximum results. Setting clear rules against bullying works toward the progress of reducing bullying. Likewise, there should be adequate awareness in the classroom about the ills and negative effects of bullying. Teaching kindness and empathy from the early stage of childhood would as well instil discipline in the pupils of a school. Non-teaching staff of schools should frequently parade hidden quarters in the school. Finally, the responsibility of reducing bullying in schools to the minimum level rests on the parents, teachers, and the school system. Providing support and protection to victims and ensuring minimal psychological scarring is of utmost importance. In the battle of reducing bullying in schools, all parties involved should remember that “prevention is always better than cure“.
© Victoria Idowu for the Editorial Team, God is Love Educational Foundation