Where humans can’t leave and mustn’t complain,
There some will emerge who enjoy giving pain… Les Murray
School bullying is unwanted aggressive behaviour between/ among school-aged children based on power imbalance and repeatedly carried out, that may harm the victim and the bully physically, mentally, socially, and educationally.
Bullying isn’t an action that is confined to a school wall, it is also experienced outside the school context. However, in the light of Sylvester Oromoni’s death — a twelve-year-old who died after he was allegedly beaten up by five seniors at Dowen College and made to drink some chemical substance, and unfortunately left untreated by the school authority who could have taken him to the hospital rather left him in the sickbay for the parents to come and pick up days after being injured.
It is indeed a sad and unfortunate incident that could have been avoided if only the school had an anti-bullying and victim protection system in place, plus empathy towards its pupils which it lacked based on the first press release and the attitude of the school revealed in developing stories in the wake of Sylvester’s untimely death.
In the light of this event, lots of people have begun recounting their school bullying experiences in primary and secondary schools. The incident at Dowen College just brought to light that there might be at least one bully in every school.
The question of who is a bully? How can you identify a bully? Who is responsible for a bully? How can bullies be stopped? Have been on the lips of some people since the development of this story. With the world on the thirteenth day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, it is imperative to note that the education sector in Nigeria needs to tighten the reins of violence in schools. But how?
The school needs to be a safe place for kids and we need to stop dismissing bullying among students with ‘kids will always be kids.’ Also, the culture of violence in schools cannot be influenced by working with bullies and victims alone, it will take a joint effort among stakeholders — the ministry of education, students, school staff, administrators, and parents.
The ministry of education through school staff and students can take actions to prevent bullying in schools by teaching empathy; this helps kids to put themselves in others’ shoes and help them walk through problems in conflict resolution.
Building a sense of community to create opportunities for connection provides a safe space for students to speak up when they are being bullied or witness one and gives them room to express themselves and feel heard.
Nipping ‘gateway behaviour’ in the bud is very important, such as eye-rolling, name-calling, stalking, causing physical harm, prolonged staring, etc. Although these behaviours are not bullying, there are possibilities that these could metamorphose into bullying. It is therefore important that interventions be put in place to attenuate these before it becomes a big issue.
School bullying also occurs between teachers and students or among teachers, school administrators should try to decentralise and diffuse power to avoid power imbalance whether real or perceived which is a common feature in bullying cases. They should also create anti-bullying policies that would be effective to serve as deterrence to bullies.
The ministries of education across the nation should train teachers in all schools on ‘How to handle bullying’ and make it a mandatory prerequisite training or course for new recruits across the states whether in private or public schools.
Parents also have their role to play to protect their kids from being bullied or being a bully, they should create a more positive family climate for their kids, suppress cases of sibling bullying, adopt authoritative parenting practices and not harsh parenting styles, instill emotional and interpersonal skills in their children, they should be friendly and helpful with school personnel as this will create an easy channel for dialogue.
In all, a school is meant to have a positive climate and a safe place for children who attend, this can only be achieved when all hands are on deck to play their role to the letter. Parents, ministries of education, school administrators, teachers and students; we need to act now by not keeping silent and getting complacent with a lackadaisical attitude to avoid another case of Sylvester or adults who are battling demons because of childhood bullying.