BULLYING in schools is a systemic problem that affects almost all schools in Nigeria. It is a repeated aggressive behaviour characterized by power imbalance and the intent to cause harm.
Bullying is an act in which an aggressor behaves in such a way that the victim senses a real or perceived threat or powerlessness.
It can seriously affect the way a child socializes with others, how they perform in schools, and even how they act or view themselves later in life. Children who are bullied often feel threatened and powerless.
While bullying can be destructive and persistent, it can also be subtle enough that teachers may not even be aware of it. Most times, many parents may not be able to tell if their children or wards are being bullied.
Since bullying can lead to long-lasting psychological, emotional, and physical problems, it is essential for parents and teachers as well to recognize the signs of bullying and use every possible means to combat it.
Airing her views on the issue, Mrs Okaro, a Primary school teacher said “bullying is like a two edged sword, because it negatively affects the bully and the person being bullied. This is why it is very important that it is caught early and addressed.
But you can neither catch it early nor address it unless you know what warning signs to look out for. First, I will talk about the warning signs from the victim’s perspective and then I will move on to warning signs to ascertain whether a child is the bully him/herself. But mind you that there is no single way to tell if your child or pupil is being bullied.
If a child is being bullied at school, the warning signs at school may involve becoming aggressive and unreasonable, refusing to talk about what is wrong, having unexplained bruises, cuts, scratches, particularly those appearing after recess or lunch time,
having damaged belongings or torn clothes, becoming a frequent target for teasing, mimicking or ridicule, above all the child’s grade might drop.
Warning signs at home may include having trouble getting out of bed, not wanting to go to school, changing their method or route to school or become frightened of walking to school for those that walk to school, changing their sleeping or eating patterns, having frequent mood swings and anxiety, frequent nightmares and bedwetting.
Once these signs are spotted, a parent should try to find out from the child if he/she is being bullied. They may out of fear not want to talk about it at first, but it is the duty of the parent to know how to find out the truth from the child. If the child is being bullied, the school authority must be notified, because chances are that there are other victims.
But then, what if your child is the one doing the bullying? If your child is bullying, someone will probably tell you – a teacher, another child’s parents, or one of your child’s siblings.
Other signs may include your child talking about other children in an aggressive or negative way, having money, toys or other things that don’t belong to him/her. Again, neither of these signs means your child is definitely bullying, but you might want to talk to your child’s teacher to find out if there have been any problem at school.
Again, Mr Uwadinjo, a Guidance Counsellor with a private Secondary School, said “bullying can be frightening, it can be physically and emotionally damaging for children. School children and even preschoolers can experience bullying.
Bullying is when children tease other children over and over again, say mean things or call other children names, spread nasty stories about other children, hit and push other children, take other children’s things forcefully.
If friends or peers disagree or even argue, or if someone says something mean once, even if it is unpleasant and even nasty, it may still not be bullying. Bullying is mean and hurtful behaviours that happen over and over again.
“Bullying can happen face to face, it can also happen online- for example, if children send harassing texts or post negative comments about others online, this is cyber bullying. Bullying can affect everyone – those who are bullied, those who bully, and those who witness bullying.
Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes including impacts on mental health, substance use, and suicide. It is important to talk to kids to determine whether bullying or something else is a concern. If your child tells you about being bullied, listen calmly and offer comfort and support.
Kids are often reluctant to tell adults about bullying because they feel embarrassed and ashamed that it is happening, or worry that their parents will be disappointed, upset, angry or reactive.
“Sometimes, kids feel like it is their own fault, that if they looked or acted differently, it would not be happening. Sometimes, they are scared that if the bully finds out that they told, it will get worse. Others are worried that their parents will not believe them or do anything about it.
Or kids worry that their parents will urge them to fight back when they are scared to do so.
“Children should be commended for doing the right thing by talking to their parents about the way they are being bullied, they should be assured that they are not alone, tell them that a lot of people get bullied at some point and that you must figure out what to do about it.
Finally let the school authority know about the situation. They are in the position to monitor and take steps to prevent further problems. Sometimes also, it is useful to approach the bully’s parents, this will be after you have spoken with the school authority,
and the meeting with the bully’s parents should be best done in a context where a school official, such as the Principal or the head of the school can mediate. Most schools have bullying policies and anti-bullying programmes.
Find out about such laws in your child’s school, in certain cases, if you have serious concerns about your child’s safety, you may need to contact legal authorities”.
In her own view, Mrs Akubude, a civil servant said, “bullying was once considered a childhood rite of passage. Today, however, bullying is recognized as a serious problem. To help your child handle bullying, you must learn to recognize it and understand how to respond.
Bullying is a form of aggression, in which one or more children repeatedly and intentionally intimidate, harass or harm a victim who is perceived as unable to defend him/herself.
Bullying can take physical (hitting, tripping, kicking as well as destroying a child’s property), verbal (teasing, name-calling, taunting), Psychological or social (spreading rumours about a child, embarrassing him or her in public, or excluding him or her from a group),
cyber (using social media platform, text messages or videos posted on websites or sent through phones to threaten or harm others).
Children who are bullied are at great risk of mental health problems, impaired academic performances, substance abuse, violence and even suicide. In responding to bullying, the parent must contact the school authorities,
explain your concern in a matter-of-fact way, and then ask for a copy of the school’s policy on bullying if there is any, so that if the bullying continues, you might consider talking to a lawyer. Taking legal action to disrupt a culture of bullying can make our schools and our community safer for all children.”