Teachers, parents urged to step up efforts to eliminate bullying
While attending primary school, K-Omar Sang was teased relentlessly because of a learning disability which made reading difficult.
The now-16-year-old Ronald Lopez School of Hope student told attendees at a Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA)-organised anti-bullying workshop on Monday that the trauma still lingers.
“Him (the bully) used to tell mi seh mi dunce, stupid, cyaa read and nobody nah go want mi,” he told The Gleaner that he would hear on a daily basis.
To avoid facing the bully, Sang would often hide in his classroom or in the bathroom at lunchtime.
When the ordeal became too much, he reported the matter to the principal and it was addressed.
Experiences like Sang’s are what the CPFSA is aiming to reduce in schools with a series of workshops aimed at strengthening the capacity of stakeholders to curb the negative effects of bullying on children.
Monday’s workshop, which was attended by students, educators, deans of discipline, guidance counsellors, social workers, children’s officers, parents, and caregivers, is intended to equip them with soft skills to assist children to deal with bullying and cyberbullying.
Charging school administrators to not ignore instances of bullying, Dr Charlene Coore-Desai, child protective specialist at UNICEF, said a culture change is needed in schools to combat the problem.
“As the school, we have to create a culture where people recognise that there are going to be actions that are going to be taken,” she said. “As school administrators, we have an opportunity to address bullying on all levels for the students’ experience. We want to prevent bullying to create a safer and more positive learning environment for our children,” she said.
Coore-Desai said bullying can severely affect students’ ability to learn.
“It really impacts the school climate and the ability of everyone to feel comfortable, both staff and students, or for people to learn. We all want our children to learn. We all want school to be a safe and comfortable place for everybody involved,” she said.
Ananda Alert officer Annadjae Roberts encouraged school administrators to not only rely on students reporting cases of bullying, but to also be very observant.
“We want them to report and we’ll create the environment that encourages reporting, but in the absence of that, we also have to make sure that we are physically present so we can see who is picking on who, who is taunting,” she said.
And while pointing to the emotional consequences of cyberbullying, which includes students becoming withdrawn, aggressive, depressed and potentially suicidal, she noted that this type of bullying transcends the physical environment.
“So very quickly, stories about you or pictures about you can be at another school or in another parish, so you no longer [only] have to worry about constrained side effects, but so many persons see this video of you or hear this rumour about you,” Roberts said.
Meanwhile, anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle called for the matter to also be addressed outside of the school setting, arguing that bullies are often responding to abusive situations at home.
“A lot of the kids who you see bullying others it’s a response to adverse childhood experiences at home,” said The University of the West Indies lecturer. “Some of them are really being tortured at home by their caregivers, and so when they go to school, they take it out on the persons who they find that are smaller.”