The notion of bullying varies depending on who is examining the concept and the instance leading to the study. If you ask a secondary school student to define bullying, they may not give a universal definition. For an average student, acts such as taking another’s pen or books may constitute bullying whereas, name-calling, verbal abuses, and social exclusion define what bullying means for some.
It may also refer to targeted assault to intimidate a student to submit to a particular position. So, their understanding of bullying stems from their experience of the act which varies depending on the circumstances. Broadly speaking, it is a repeated action that involves the attempt to gain power and dominance over another person. What this implies is that bullying is a broad concept with various manifestations. This is why the different notions about what it may imply to various people may not be wrong.
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Many cases of bullying in schools have attracted public attention in the Nigerian space. With the increasing instances of these incidents, there is the need to critically look at how bullying may impact the essence of education. In serious instances, the acts of bullying have taken the lives of victims. To learn in school, students must stay alive. Several instances of bullying have generated widespread concerns on social media. This issue is sometimes intricately linked with that of cultism in secondary schools. It is worrisome that in most secondary schools now, there are reports of widespread activities of cultists. Teachers and school administrators have also been victims in many cases. As surprising as it seems, we have also read reports of students sacking teachers and principals from school. All the calls for a rethink of the teaching profession.
In the midst of all these ugly incidents, what are school administrators doing to save the future of innocent students? What is the role of government in ensuring students stay alive to learn? Do we just cry out and wait for the next incident to happen? What are the implications of the rising cases of bullying and cultism in secondary schools? This piece may be deficient in answering all these questions. Since the patterns of bullying are not the same, it will take very diligent and committed teachers and school administrators to identify and earnestly address them.
Firstly, Parent-Teacher-Student Association (PTSA) should be mandated for all schools. This should be an integrated structure in the administration of any school. In the past, it used to be the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). In the present age, students must also be part of the meetings where critical decisions that concern their lives are taken since they are major stakeholders in the school system. They should be incorporated into the decision-making process of the school. Most school managers shy away from holding the PTSA meetings because they do not have the managerial capacity to address the burning issues that will be raised. Again, most of the meetings will expose the gross incompetence of school managers and may lead to the eventual withdrawal of students by aggrieved parents. To keep this in check, they shadily address issues on an individual basis. Unfortunately, in some cases, the PTSA executives are even appendages of the school management as they get waivers for their children’s fees. This makes it difficult for them to articulate positions that represent the interest of the entire parents.
Thorough and regular supervision of all structures of schools should be regularly done by relevant government agencies. This exercise should not be meant for just an exchange of ‘brown envelopes’ between hands. This will keep education managers and administrators on their toes in ensuring that a school system provides the best learning atmosphere for students.
Contemporary innovations in school have made some schools develop a system of mentorship system where a student is assigned at least a member of staff for close monitoring. This system is however impracticable where there is a great imbalance in the teacher-student ratio. This implies that a boarding system needs effective monitoring.
Matthew Alugbin, writes from the University of Ibadan, Oyo State.