15 Dec 2017


Bullying In Schools, A Global Issue

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According to a UNESCO report it is estimated that 246 million children and adolescents experience school violence and bullying in some form every year. 50 years ago, a bully was defined as someone who physically picks on others who are perceived as weaker. But as GEMS Nairobi’s year 10 student, Blessings Ndungu explained to her peers at the schools anti-bullying assembly, a few weeks ago bullying has since transformed into varying forms of relational aggression and it has multiple channels.  It is not so easy to physically identify bullies anymore. “Anyone who intentionally makes you feel bad about yourself is a bully”, Blessings explained.

While a lot of school bullying cases occur on the playground, along the corridors and even in class, the digital age has brought with it a new form of bullying- cyberbullying.

This past week the world has been talking about bullying in schools after Keaton Jones, an American middle schooler questioned his mother in a video that since went viral on why his fellow students picked on him. Keaton is one of the millions of children that suffer in the hands of persistent aggressors who now are also able to hide behind their screens and make life absolutely arduous for their peers.

At GEMS, we make it a point to have these discussions continously with the students because they not only have a right to quality education but it is our duty to ensure that learning takes place in a safe space.

During the anti-bullying week (this past November), students were reminded about the forms of bullying, how to avoid being a victim and what to do in the event that they fall prey to insolents in and out of school. More importantly, emphasis was placed on the basics- the need to be kind, caring and fruitful citizens both in our physical spaces and online. It is great to have students who know how to take care of themselves but it is even better when they also look out for each other and speak up for their peers who are victims of bullying.

Society upholds the bullying culture when we make certain forms of aggressive or simply unfair behaviour acceptable. With time, what we call “harmless teasing” evolves into dangerous and even life threatening situations. In Kenya, the “monolising” (actively picking on form one students in secondary schools) culture has gone largely unspoken about for decades with devastating effects as was witnessed earlier this year when an incident from a top school came into the limelight. In fact, most people who have gone through the system do not even realize that they were bullied. It was just part of the high school experience.

Datasets from the World Health Organisation-backed Global School-based Student Health Survey indicate that violence among adolescents in Kenya is highly widespread in schools.
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What is the role of adults- teachers and parents in ensuring that children are protected?

Teaching them to value others, just as much as they value themselves, being attentive and observing their behaviour patterns (in order to intervene in a timely manner) and most importantly, setting a good example because bullying is not a teenage phenomenon but a cultural reality that is dangerously evolving with the times.

Physical, mental and emotional turmoil hinder the learning process. There should be absolutely no room for bullies in schools.

‘Be a buddy, not a bully’, wise words to live by.

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