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Concerns over failure to tackle bullying in schools

It leads to emotional, suicidal distress – Experts FG restates stand against intimidation   Last week, Nigerians woke up to the trending video of a…

  • It leads to emotional, suicidal distress – Experts

  • FG restates stand against intimidation

 

Last week, Nigerians woke up to the trending video of a student of Lead British International School, Abuja, bullying another student in what appears like an interrogation setting.

The alarming video in which a student was slapping another girl in the presence of other students who seemed to cheer the act, generated anger from Nigerians who condemned the act in its entirety.

The anger may not be far from the many accounts of bullying that have taken place in and around secondary schools in the country, of which many students have been molested and others beaten eventually leading to their deaths.

Though Lead British International School, Abuja, was temporarily shut following an investigation by the Ministry of Education and the young woman later apologised to the victim and Nigerians, one can rightly note that the act of bullying in secondary schools is not new. Moreover, despite the numerous complaints and the effect bullying has on its victims, and even relations, nothing has been done to stop the growing menace.

Cases of bullying in schools

The incident at Lead British International School, Abuja, did not lead to serious consequences like others, like that of a 12-year-old student of Dowen College in Lekki, Lagos, Sylvester Oromoni Jnr, who was allegedly attacked by some of his senior colleagues for refusing to join a cult group.

Oromoni Jnr, who was recently buried after a long drawn-out controversy over his death, following the claim by his father that his son was fed a liquid substance and intimidated into keeping mum over what transpired.

The father was quoted to have said: “The boys they mentioned were also reported to the school last term when they bullied Junior and collected all his foodstuffs and clothes. They put fear in him so much so that, when you ask him, he might keep to himself and say, ‘They will kill me’. This way, we didn’t know what to do.”

There is also the case of the death of 14-year-old Keren Akpagher of Premiere Academy, Lugbe, Abuja.

The death generated a lot of controversy when the mother of the girl, Vivien Akpagher, alleged that Keren was raped, insisting that it culminated in the complications that claimed the life of her daughter.

While the school struggled to exonerate itself from the allegation of rape hanging on its neck, the grieving mother of the young student kept demanding for justice.

Another heart-wrenching story is that of a 13-year-old JSSII  student of Federal Government College, Kwali, Yahaya Nuhu, who was allegedly beaten to death by his teacher, Mrs Gibson, for failing to do his homework.

It was reported that the deceased, Yahaya, had told the teacher about his indisposition when she requested that homework be submitted.

Dissatisfied with the late student’s response, the teacher ordered him to go and remove weed as punishment. After completing the task, the teacher then beat him to death.

Also worthy of mention is the 11-year-old student of a Deeper Life School student in Akwa Ibom who gave a graphic account of how the senior students allegedly abused him.

Experts take on bullying

The Chairman of Voyage International School, Abuja, Yussuff Oriyomi described bullying in schools as a form of aggressive behaviour that is intentional, repeated and involves an imbalance of power or strength.

“It can happen between students or between adults and students. It includes hitting, shoving, pushing, slapping, name-calling, insults, manipulating, spreading wrong rumours, and online harassment among others,” he said.

While noting that bullying can be physical, verbal, cyber, psychological and relational, Oriyomi said it affects students negatively and often leads to emotional distress, decreased self-esteem, anxiety and depression, social isolation, decreased academic performance and  increased risk of suicide

The CEO/proprietor of Micray Progressive School, Lokoja, Michael Sule, said the act of bullying is a thing of great concern to the education system because of the devastating effects it has on the ones being bullied.

He said students who are being bullied by their seniors or mates tend to exhibit emotional challenges that could lead them into isolating themselves and this will also have an adverse effect on the students’ performance in school.

“When you see a student that is being bullied, it is easier to identify him or her because the child becomes timid and feels less of his/her self and in most cases, the child feels he or she is not good enough and gets to isolate from others. This is because their bullies always warn them to keep mute or face bigger consequences,” he said.

He said in reality, keeping quiet about bullying is the biggest problem because when you speak up to your teachers and they fail to do anything, you can confide in your parents and that way it can be handled.

An educationist, Oluwabunmi Anani said: “When a school focuses on ‘customers’ and ‘profit’, then the end justifies the means! When a school worships elitism over correctness and principles, there is a breakdown of law, order and common sense.

“Why, in the first place, should there be repeated cases of bullying in a school, to the point that it becomes fatally impeding? One, it shows that the moral and intellectual compass of that student is questionable and it proves that the moral stance of the school system is weak and compromising,” she said.

Anani further said it tells of the poor monitoring, reporting and disciplinary apparatus of the school itself and it reeks of the absence of parental involvement in the emotional, psychological, and moral build-up of the child.”

How teachers can stop bullying

In most of the bullying cases in schools, the students have always said they reported to their teachers but nothing was done, this is in spite of their role as guardians of the students while in school.

A teacher, Sophia Emmanuel, said teachers should not be blamed but rather school management and parents when teachers fail to stop troublesome students from bullying others.

“We are operating a system where parents will not allow their children who derail to be punished and set on the right track, rather they would warn teachers and in some cases threaten to withdraw the student from the school. So if a child reports to you as a teacher, you can only caution the other party by talking to him softly and that may not deter him or her,” she said.

Meanwhile, Oriyomi said teachers have a crucial role to play in preventing and stopping bullying in schools.

“Teachers need to educate students on bullying and incorporate anti-bullying lessons and activities into the curriculum to raise awareness and promote prevention. They should also involve parents and the community in anti-bullying efforts through workshops, events and partnerships,” he said.

He said they can create a safe and supportive classroom environment by establishing a positive and inclusive atmosphere where students feel comfortable and respected.

“They should set clear expectations and rules, develop and enforce classroom rules that prohibit bullying and promote kindness and respect. Encourage empathy and understanding. Teach students to put themselves in others’ shoes and understand the impact of their words and actions,” he said.

While noting that teachers need to foster positive and strong relationships with students and encourage them to do the same with their peers, he said they should monitor and keep a close eye on students during recess, lunch and other unstructured times when bullying often occurs.

He advised teachers to address bullying incidents immediately and take appropriate disciplinary action as well as provide support for victims by offering counselling, guidance and support to students who have been bullied.

FG kicks against harassment, intimidation in schools

Following the development in Lead British International School, Abuja, the Minister of State for Education Dr Yusuf Tanko Sununu, emphasised the government’s steadfast stance against any form of harassment or intimidation within educational institutions.

Dr Sununu underscored the importance of establishing stronger bonds between school authorities and students to facilitate immediate responses to similar incidents in the future, emphasising the critical role of communication in resolving such issues.

Assuring of the government’s commitment to ensuring safety and protecting the rights of all students, Dr Sununu reiterated the seriousness of the Federal Ministry of Education in addressing and eradicating vices within the education sector.

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