• Sunday, June 23, 2024
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How bullying distorts children’s social, educational developmental goals

The demise of Mohbad: How can families shield children against bullying?

It was Mahmoud Abbas, president of the state of Palestine, who said; “If you run from a leaking roof you will end up with a flood.”

Like a leaking roof, bullying in Nigeria’s basic education cadre is a problem that must be tackled headlong or the country be overtaken by the flood of rising adolescent depression and suicide.

The instances of bullying in primary and secondary schools across the country are continually gaining pace to the detriment of the health, social and educational well-being of Nigerian children.

Experts generally agree that bullying is a major public health problem that increases the risk of poor health, social and educational outcomes in childhood and adolescence.

Bullying and sexual harassment of students in Nigeria education scene is gradually becoming an everyday occurrence.

In November 2021, Sylvester Oromoni was reported dead after sustaining multiple injuries from fellow students that bullied him at Dowen College in Lekki-Lagos.

Similarly in June 2021, Nigerian media was filled with the sad news of the death of Happuch Aondodoo Akpagher, a 14 year old student of Premiere Academy in Lugbe-Abuja who was sexually assaulted and later gave up the ghost as a result of complications.

In December 2020, Don Davis, 11 year old boy at Deeper Life High School in Uyo, Akwa-Ibom State was reported to have been physically and sexually molested by his seniors in school.

The stories of bullying and assaults were registered in Chrisland School in Lagos; Ganmo Arabic School in Kwara, and Hassan Gwarzo Secondary School in Kano, among others.

Bullying behaviour is a grave issue among school-age children and adolescents; it has short and long-term effects on the person who is bullied.

Bullying can be either direct or indirect, and youth may experience different types of bullying.

Experts believe that students who are bullied show less academic improvement due to a fear of standing out. As a result, teachers often identify those students as low achievers or unmotivated learners.

These students may then receive less attention from teachers which only pushes them further down the academic rankings in their school.

According to the Michigan Association of School Administrators, the effects of bullying extend far beyond the academic scope.

Students who are repeatedly bullied may experience physical symptoms like stomach pains, headaches, and trouble sleeping.

These side effects may pair with anxiety about going to school or participating in class which only leads to further loss of interest and reduced academic performance.

Students who are bullied often exhibit low self-confidence, frequently experiencing depression, suicidal thoughts, and even violent outbreaks

There is evidence that bullying has detrimental effects on children’s health and social behavior.

Experts argue that students who bully other students also experience some negative side effects.

For instance, they maintained that students who bully are more likely to engage in violent behaviour, to steal or vandalise property, to smoke, to drink, to score poor grades, and/or even to carry a gun.

Findings from a focus group discussion revealed the lasting effects of victims with the history of being bullied. One thing that was discovered was the tedious sense of insecurity it invoked in people:

Read also: Embracing Art Education in primary schools: Fostering creativity and critical thinking

Peace Obi, a catering business woman explained that bullying makes one feel unaccepted, insecure and inferior amongst one’s social group.

“When you’re being bullied, you feel constantly insecure and on guard. Even if you’re not actively being bullied, you’re aware it could start anytime.

It has a big mental and emotional trauma, you feel unaccepted, isolated, angry, and withdrawn.

You’re always wondering how you can do better and how you can escape a bully’s notice.

You’re also stunted because of the constant tension around your chest, suffocating any confidence. There are times I struggle with making friends or miss out on taking certain chances.

Kike Oluwa, a media practitioner shared her experience of bullying thus:

“I never feel like my input matters. I would always give room for others to speak their opinions over mine.

I feel weak, without confidence and depth. I work in a company that demands vocal contribution, but time and again I bury whatever contribution or question I might have for fear of being rejected and mocked.

This inadequacy is exalted especially in group discussions; but with personal conversations, I am more relaxed and comfortable with expressing myself.”

Joy Ibe, a student, pointed out that bullying has made her feel constantly unequal to her mates due to its negative internal effect.

“I have low self-esteem. That is the truth of it. I have tried to rise above the mentality of not being worthy of anything. It is like a voice at the back of my head that keeps laughing, taking me back to unpleasant times,” she said.

Through a study from the National Institute of Health, we see that the emotional effects of being bullied can be expressed through somatic disturbances, which is similar to somatisation, physical symptoms that originate from stress or an emotional condition.

Common stress or anxiety-related symptoms include sleep disorders, gastrointestinal concerns, headaches, palpitations, and chronic pain.

The relationship between peer victimisation and sleep disturbances has been well documented.
The journal from the institution also enlightens that there are several studies examining how the brain processes social pain.

Social pain describes the “feelings of pain that follow the experiences of peer rejection, ostracism, or loss”
Social pain is consistent with how people describe their feelings about being bullied. For example; one victim of bullying described the emotional toll of his experience by saying, “I feel like, emotionally, they (his bullies) have been beating me with a stick for 42 years”

Researchers have demonstrated that when people experience social pain, they activate in their brain a similar experience to physical pain.

Specifically, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, which is part of the prefrontal cortex, seems to be implicated in the processing of both physical and social pain.

The fact that physical and social pain have overlapping neural systems might explain why people tend to use physical pain metaphors (eg “it broke my heart when she called me ugly.”) when describing their experiences with being humiliated, oppressed, or rejected.

Emmanuel Thomas, a former student from one of the high institutions in Lagos State confessed to being oppressed by a senior student during his time.

An experience he said has left a lasting impression in his life till date.
“For me I knew I would get my turn on other students once I got to be a senior, so I bore the beatings and harassment.

It was seen as a normal thing. My provisions would be taken, along with other things.
“So I proposed that when it got to my turn, the same punishment would be meted on the juniors,” he said.
Stakeholders urge the government and school authorities to ensure that bullying is kicked out of the country’s education system.

Friday Erhabor, a parent, advocates that there should be a mandatory orientation organised for students at primary and secondary school levels.
“The way orientation is organised when people gain admission to the universities, there should be orientation for fresh students in both primary and secondary schools where the consequences of bullying are spelt out.
Besides, there should be a written undertaking to be countersigned by parents on the consequences of bullying,” he said.

Erhabor reiterated that the only remedy for vices is when consequences are enforced either through suspension of culprits or other corporal punishment.
Irene Ajaero, an educational psychologist and counselor, urged policymakers to embrace social problem solving techniques in curbing bullying in Nigerian schools.

“Social problem solving skills need to be introduced in schools along with counseling sessions, because this is a social problem.
The children need to be counseled, for the child who is even doing the bullying has a psychological problem.

To stop bullying in schools you must stop the person who is bullying others. One of the skills to use is the social problem solving skill,” she said.

Ajaero revealed that bullying is inspired by different things, hence, it is important to have one- on- one sessions with the children and make them understand that such behaviour will not lead to their advantage.

“Friendliness is a good approach in handling these children. Be friendly instead of showing them the might of your position, utilising your control in full show, because these bullies also have problems,” she said.

Adeola Adepoju, a mother, urges schools to be deliberate about curbing bullying.

“Any student that bullies another should be suspended. Such punishment will teach other students not to follow in that path, because if nothing like that is done, it will continue repeating itself,” she noted.