The Mastercard Foundation has partnered with Ugandan NGOs to launch a campaign aimed at reducing bullying in schools.
Bullying is one of the most pervasive forms of school violence and can cause long-term trauma into adulthood.
According to UNESCO, one in three students worldwide experiences bullying and physical violence each month and this challenge carries numerous detrimental side effects that have broader societal implications as both victims and perpetrators of bullying suffer across various dimensions, including personal social development, education, and mental health issues, costing their countries millions of dollars.
In many African countries, bullying and mental health are taboo topics worsened by low funding, miscommunication, and low awareness.
According to Patrick Kaboyo from the Education Advocacy Network, UNICEF reports indicate that the effects of COVID-19 have exacerbated bullying and mental health among children and young people.
"As a result, children experience cyberbullying, physical and verbal abuse, and psychological and social isolation. Due to its damaging effects on learning and behaviour, bullying has increased the number of school dropouts, drug addictions and pushed several children to take their own lives,"Kaboyo said.
He noted that in the past four months alone, there have been over ten reported cases of child suicides in Uganda.
"Unfortunately, these are not just statistics but the real lives of children who felt hopeless without safe spaces for expression. For example, Kasule Arafat, a 14-year pupil of Kabira UMEA primary school, took his own life after allegedly reporting being bullied, but the school didn't do anything to help. Sadly, many parents and teachers are not adequately equipped to deal with bullying and are sometimes even reported as the source."
Kaboyo noted that as concerned child advocates, with the 'Be kind campaign', they seek to reduce bullying in Africa through existing primary schools, parents, and community systems.
"The campaign empowers children aged 7-15 years to grow confidence to stand up and speak up about bullying."
He adds that the campaign was developed in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation under the #DoNoHarm campaign to create a friendly environment where every child is treated with dignity and respect.
"We have trained teachers, published kids voice books, developed guidelines and kits, installed message boards
and talking compounds in schools, and set up Kids Voice clubs led by student advocates. In addition, we recruited child ambassadors from the International School of Modelling to spread the Be Kind messages in Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa, through their social media platforms. We have also partnered with development agencies, such as Right To Play and Finn Church Aid, to reach children in rural areas and refugee camps."
"Bullying is a huge challenge that requires strategic partnership and innovation. The Ministry of
Education may not have funding for psychosocial support, but we are ready to collaborate and scale this innovative Be Kind campaign to reach more children in the country."