However, his gentle nature is often taken advantage of by the group of class bullies who take away his tiffin everyday without permission, taunt and mock him especially in front of other peers, for no apparent reason. He doesn't dare meddle with them, though, because he fears worse consequences if he does. Some of the boys among these bullies are older than him, and some far more aggressive. He does not look forward to going to school every day, anymore.
In another school, Sadia, who's studying in Grade 9, is tired of hearing baseless rumours about herself every now and then, being spread around by some of her classmates. Some of the rumours are so nerve-wracking that they terrify her. She has no idea why they would do that; she had never done anything to offend or disturb them. But she does not confront them, fearing that it may create even more hassles for her. The fact that her other class mates hardly ever stand up in her defense, perhaps out of fear, too, compounds her own fear. She counts days, yearning for the year to end. The thought of changing her school also crosses her mind and with each passing day, she feels more pressurized mentally.
Any voluntary action aimed at assertion of dominance over someone to make them feel inferior or to defame them qualifies as bullying. The instances mentioned above describe only two of the many different types of bullying faced by adolescents at school. The phenomenon is widely evident beyond schools to numerous spheres of the social construct, too. Whoever is in touch with current affairs, is sure have come across reports of ‘ragging’ in universities, eve teasing and countless other forms of bullying in Bangladesh. The forms may vary between countries and cultures, but every act of bullying has one thing in common – the perpetrator voluntarily harasses the victim to boost their own confidence and to drain the victim’s.
Victims of repeated bullying may develop conditions such as chronic depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and a lack of self-esteem that often continues to haunt them well into adulthood. It also threatens to hamper their academic performance. Reports of suicide are not rare, too. Some victims, when they grow up, become bullies themselves. Victims of bullying become victims because they fail to fight back effectively, which leaves them physically or psychologically scarred, and often both.
Most incidents of bullying go unnoticed, until the severity of the consequences demand attention. The recent reports on ragging of a Jahangirnagar University fresher or the ragging of a few freshers at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) that left them traumatized, only got attention because of the severity of the incidents. Unless the incidents cause severe damage, flags are raised. However, countless bullying incidents go unnoticed despite leaving a substantial, if not fatal, negative impacts on the sufferers.
Victims of repeated bullying may develop conditions such as chronic depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and a lack of self-esteem
In a study conducted on the scenario of bullying at high schools in Dhaka, more than 50% of the participants reported having experienced some form of bullying, and more than 10% experienced being bullied once a week. Added to that, a survey conducted by Telenor Group revealed in 2016 that 49% of school students in Bangladesh have been victims of cyber bullying.
According to research and various accounts, bullies harass their victims mainly to get attention, and to establish street-cred in the eyes of their peers. Often, they put others down to mask their own insecurities. Many bullies, after growing up and developing a better understanding of the world, do look back at their actions with regret.
Dr Patricia Agatston, co-author of Cyberbullying: Bullying in the Digital Age
, during the World Anti-Bullying Forum 2017, recommended building relationships at school, starting from the classrooms. “You need to know every kid, work on building those connections, and then help spread it through the school community broadly,” she says.
She also stressed on the importance of spending time and teaching empathy as well as the social skills all kids need about impulse control and problem solving behaviours that the youth need. It’s about helping children develop connections when they’re using social media or in person.
Bystander intervention during bullying can be very impactful in prevention. Dr Agatston says that intervention does not have to be confrontation, which could often make the situation worse, but only for someone to come up to the sufferer and say that he or she is someone who understands and listens, can make a difference. In fact, research does suggest that bystander intervention can play a great role in limiting the harmful effects of bullying.
Noor E Alam Siddique, a senior faculty in WACE and IB Curriculum in Australian International School, Dhaka, suggests a few ways in which teachers and school authorities can play a role in preventing bullying.
Many bullies, after growing up and developing a better understanding of the world, do look back at their actions with regret
“First and foremost, we need to educate the children on the issue. For instance, There’s a documentary titled Bully that follows students and allows viewers to see how bullying occurs and what effects it can have on students. Encouraging our students to watch these types of documentaries could fill them in on the potentially grave consequences of bullying. In other words, films such as Bully
can be eye-openers that most students can relate to in one way or another. Powerful films such as this have the potential to change attitudes towards bullying altogether,” he says.
In addition, Siddique highly recommends that teachers should work together to promote a culture that is safe and supportive towards all students, and must teach students to be warm and welcoming to each other, regardless of their differences. Teachers should also be aware of the places in a school where bullying incidents occur frequently, and visit these places regularly, intervening and resolving the situation whenever they observe an instance of bullying. Support and guidance to all students, including the bully and the victim, is important in prevention, according to him.
“Every school should establish a ‘bullying prevention plan’ and make sure members of the staff follow it. The plan should include what to do if a bullying situation is spotted, and how to discipline and handle those that are involved. An anonymous system where students can voice concerns over potential bullying situations to staff members must be in place, too. All staff members should have to go through a training seminar on bullying and sign off on the bullying prevention plan in their school. Having every staff member on the same page is essential in handling bullying instances in schools,” he continues.
The problem of bullying is very much real, but the good news is that it is preventable. Experts say that bullies are not born, but are created by many elements in their environment. Timely and informed care of all children by those in charge of taking care of them could go a long way in effectively addressing and solving the problem before it destroys the lives of its victims.