More and more bullying-related deaths are being reported and neither schools, nor parents are able to nip it in the bud. Aparna Kapoor tries to find why
Teen jumps to death from 10th floor after being bullied in school.
Bullying makes 13-year-old boy hang himself.
These are the headlines reporting the deaths of two separate teenagers. The first one was 14-year-old Raunak Banerjee who jumped to his death (in July 2016) from his building complex, immediately upon returning from school. The second one, Vikas Raja Singh, was only 13 when he hanged himself in his house in February 2017. His mother found his body.
These are just two of the several horrifying incidents of bullying-related deaths to have been reported in the past few years. Bullying in school is the new killer on loose, and unlike the scary movies where the killer gets caught—it seems bullying is just sharpening its claws.
“I can tell you,without doubt, that it plays havoc with your mind, kills your soul and hollows you out. Repeated incidents have lead me to think, at times, that my life is worthless. I have felt lonely, anxious and I have even thought of suicide. I am lucky to have a strong support system in my parents and teachers, but I wonder how many are as lucky?” a class 9 student from Gurgaon, who has suffered bullying at school, asks.
Bullying can be direct or indirect. It could be physical, emotional, or even sexual in nature. Direct bullying occurs when the targeted child is present: It could be calling the child names, physical intimidation or verbal abuse. Indirect bullying is more subtle, but more brutal because this happens to a child through a medium: Spreading rumours, slander through gossip, lashing out at the child over the internet and leaves the child emotionally scared, and scarred.
Beware, be aware
In today’s fast-paced world where parents are at work almost all the time, while children are taken care of by nannies or shiny gadgets, bullying should be a matter of concern for everyone. Waving a half-hearted goodbye in the morning and a cursory questioning in the evening is not the way towards a child’s well-being. Parents need to be more aware of how their children’s moods are changing, and not for the better.
“You are worthless. You’re ugly. Fade away,” these are some of the things our children hear from their peers in schools. Some of them call it “having fun” while others call it a way to “become popular”. These things scare me; being a mother of a teenage boy and an eight-year-old girl, I keep track of their every thought and expression,” admits Monica Dua, an artist and a mother living in Gurgaon.
Deepa Kakkar, another teen’s mother, is just happy that her son’s school, Shri Ram School in Gurgaon, does not tolerate bullying. “I have been lucky; my son goes to a 100 percent no-bullying school. Children (with errant behaviour) are dealt with strictly; some have even been expelled from the school. I fully support this stance of the school,” she says.
According to psychologists, a child needs to feel loved, cared and important. And parents have to openly display their affection, every day, especially at these three times: when they get up in the morning; when they come back from school and just before going to bed. This emphasizes parents’ responsibility and attention required during the children’s growing years.
Behind the scenes
While direct bullying can be dealt with, cyber bullying—aggressive behaviour towards a child through the internet—is more menacing. Children revert to online world to incite others and abuse through disparaging emails or taunting texts and posts across social media and chat rooms. And, who can forget the Blue Whale wave that had children blindly following instructions and putting themselves in harm’s way?
Not just children, but teachers, too, unknowingly become bullies while trying to urge the students to perform better or discipline them. Being sarcastic or repeatedly critical is an attack on a child’s self-esteem and is bullying, even if it is unintentional.
Most of the schools have policies against bullying, but just having those do not help; they have to be implemented too. Needless to say, a school’s role in preventing bullying is pivotal as children spend most of their active hours in school. Now more than ever it is essential that teachers are trained to identify, handle and counsela child who is a bully, along with the one that gets bullied. Sometimes, though, teachers find themselves unable to do what is required.
“We do encounter various acts of bullying; but, owing to institutional demands, it is not easy to intervene in issuesrelated to school violence. We only use classroom-level interventions, encouraging students to not remain silent,” says Meenakshi Chauhan, a teacher with a leading school in Delhi.
Action plan needed
Earlier last month, it was reported that, following a survey in a few Bengaluru and Delhi schools, the human resource development (HRD) ministry was mulling an action plan to curb the menace of bullying. It was reported that ministry officials are in favour of implementing the recommendations of a government-appointed committee that conducted a psychological study of ragging and bullying, earlier.
The committee had recommended that schools should be more inclusive and should promote diversity, saying that a significant proportion of the students reported that “a full range of aggressive behaviours”, including social aggression and aggression on social media was “commonly seen” in the schools.
In 2009, the UGC announced an amendment made to the University Grants Commission Act, 1956, to prevent ragging in higher education institutions. However, bullying in primary and higher secondary institution still needs to be tackled. There has been some headway into that as Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has generated guidelines for its affiliated schools.
However, schools should not be waiting around for CBSE to make its announcement. To begin with, schools can form committees to deal with bullying. This body should ideally have the principal, a doctor, a counsellor, a senior teacher, a parent-teacher representative, school management representative and a legal advisor as members.