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Opinion: tackling the threat of bullying among students

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By Temilade Aruya

BULLYING, a situation in which stronger children prey on the weakness and vulnerability of others, has unfortunately become a serious problem in our country, especially among high school children.

This is a common occurrence in Nigerian schools, especially among boarding school students.

While 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 victims, and it repeats itself over time. It is characterized by a power differential between bullies and their victims and manifests itself in many forms such as harassment, stalking, mistreatment, intimidation, oppression and discrimination, among others.

It is normally inflicted by senior students on juniors. In fact, it is considered a rite of passage in some schools. It is shocking to discover that presumed innocent children can do such harm against other young people. Naturally, compassion, sympathy, empathy, caring, kindness, love, and forgiveness, to name a few, are commonly associated with children.

Normally, the sight of pain, weakness or vulnerability should arouse compassion in children. So a situation where the reverse is the case signals a deeply rooted problem. Overall, the impact of this despicable act on children cannot be overstated. There are cases of children who have become victims of depression, suicidal tendencies, bitterness and hatred due to the negative impact of bullying.

The death of Sylvester Oromomi, 12, a student at Dowen College, Lekki, following an injury sustained at school from physical assault by a group of bullies, has undoubtedly taken bullying to a worrying dimension in our country. It is quite distressing that such a precious life can be choked under such pathetic circumstances. What could have led to such depravity of character?

How could this have gone unnoticed in a school setting supposed to be a haven of peace for children? What form of education and training have these children been really exposed to? These questions and many others that call for answers have sparked a wide range of reactions and ripples across the country. What actually compounded the problem was that many more came to tell their own stories of bullying. In order to reverse the unpleasant trend, teachers, parents, guardians and caregivers need to be on the lookout for signs of bullying and address them quickly.

In most cases, victims of bullying do not want to speak or report for fear of the abuser. However, there are some signals or signs that could easily show that a child is being bullied. These include the constant loss of personal effects such as shoes, drinks or socks, which are usually taken away by the abuser. Often times, the victim is denied these personal things by the bully, while parents usually assume that the child has been negligent.

Likewise, when you notice inexplicable injuries on your pupils, you should investigate until you get to the root of the problem. Sometimes such injuries can be inflicted by the abuser. Anxiety, withdrawal syndrome, and sleep loss are other noticeable signs of bullying.

In addition, teachers, caregivers and school owners need to be able to account for the whereabouts of each student during school hours and beyond. A situation in which a junior student is serving time or is locked away somewhere while classes are in progress or when a nap is being observed should not be tolerated.

It has been observed that most boarding schools in the country do not separate junior hostels from senior hostels, and most bullying takes place in the hostel where the senior is more or less the lord. It is therefore necessary to separate the homes and ensure that any senior in the junior’s residences is taken care of.

Specifically, schools must educate students about the harms of bullying and prohibit it. The school system, culture and values ​​must be such that they neither condone nor encourage bullying in any way. School prefects must be taught to correct and not to punish; correction does not always have to be punitive.

It has been felt that bullying children mostly come from difficult backgrounds, broken homes and may have experienced various forms of abuse or low self-esteem at one point or another.

Each individual is the extension of a home and a family; armed robbers, criminals, terrorists come from a family. Likewise, crime fighters, missionaries, philanthropists, inventors of life-changing inventions and the like are also products of a family.

In essence, the family is perhaps the most powerful unit for socialization and change in society. Therefore, parents and guardians have a crucial role to play in imparting morals and ethics to their children / wards.

This should not be done just by teaching or talking, but by deliberately instilling virtues and vital standards in children through positive action and reinforcement because children model their parents.

As parents, you don’t teach a child to love without showing love. Likewise, you don’t teach kindness to a child without treating the people around you with kindness. The way you treat your housekeepers or housekeepers speaks volumes and these children learn by example.

Likewise, the way that couples relate to themselves and to children also helps forge a stable loving environment where children can thrive and develop the right emotional, physical and social attributes that will allow them to add fair value to society.

Accordingly, society should be seen as promoting and encouraging principles which engender truth, fairness and equality; children must not only be seen but also heard and protected. We all need to realize and accept that when society allows or allows the prey of the innocence and vulnerability of the weak, then it digs its own grave. Society must therefore stand up and say no to bullying in all its ramifications.

Aruya is Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja

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