Daily Trust (Abuja)

10 November 2012

Nigeria: Curbing Bullying in Schools

Bullying among school children can have negative impact on your kid's studies. In fact, studies suggest that chronically bullied students risk depression, poor self-esteem, and other mental health problems when they become adults

According to Susan Limber, Assistant Director, Institute for Families in Society, University of South Carolina, "Bullying among children is understood as repeated, negative acts committed by one or more children against another.

These negative acts may be physical or verbal in nature -- for example, hitting or kicking, teasing or taunting -- or they may involve indirect actions such as manipulating friendships or purposely excluding other children from activities. Implicit in this definition is an imbalance in real or perceived power between the bully and victim."

But how well do you, as parent, know about child bullying? Have we ever wondered why some kids dread going to school even though they seem interested in studying? The reason may be many, but it may have something to do with someone bullying him in school. As parents, therefore, it is our duty to find out why the sudden countenance in our children's behavior when school is mentioned.

The fact is: bullying is real at it does happen in schools, including primary schools. A child would be too frightened to narrate what he/she is going through with their peers in school maybe because they must have been warned by their bullies not to dare tell any adult.

Most times children are bullied because of the kinds of clothes, shoes, hairdo and the way they speak. Some are unnecessarily bullied because they come from a wealthy family. As parents we should not leave monitoring of our kids and what happens to them in school to the school authorities alone. They are our kids and we ought to know what goes on in their lives till they are independent.

"I am forty five years now and can still recall years of teasing and name calling both in an out of school, about my weight, unfashionable clothes and hair style and a whole lot of other things. it wasn't easy and it had a negative effect on me till I got to the university.

But with understanding friends in the university I was able to break out of my shell. Bullying by peers is a confidence breaker and every responsible parent should make sure his/her child is not bullied. I have been there and so I know the impact," says Mrs. Martha Adegun, an educationist.

Bullying should be addressed both at home and in school. Children should be taught that is bad to bully peers or younger ones. They should be though that bullying only portrays them in bad light.

The parents of the bullies should really reevaluate their parenting styles- especially with the multitude of traumatic experiences that have occurred as a result of bullying by some children. Parents need to monitor their young children's use of social media and reiterate on a constant basis the dangers of bullying.

If these bullied children could only realize that the clothes and shoes one wears, who our friends are and our popularity status in school are all meaningless and insignificant then maybe things might start to change.

The school authority on the other hand has a responsibility to ensure that children are not being singled out for cruelty by their peers. It is also down to parents to be good role models and teach their children by example how to treat and interact with others with respect and courtesy. Children will be mercenary and cruel beyond belief if adults don't properly monitor and supervise them.

Mr Paul O. Mathew, a civil servant with the Ministry of Education, says "It's time that child bullies and their parents were held accountable for their actions. Children know bullying is wrong. But they still go ahead and bully and even threatening that their victims do not say a word to anybody. Bullies should be punished in some way and made to face up to what they've done.

School teachers who ignore problems should also be held accountable, as should school boards to fail to put systems in place to support children and encourage anyone being bullied to speak out. If bullying is checked on time we can save the society from a whole lot of trouble."

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