Bul­lies go­ing un­pun­ished

More than 60 per cent of Ja­maican chil­dren face abuse from school­mates

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Na­dine Wil­son-Har­ris Staff Re­porter na­dine.wil­son@glean­erjm.com

WITH BUL­LY­ING be­com­ing per­va­sive and seem­ingly nor­malised in Ja­maica, the Child De­vel­op­ment Agency (CDA) de­cided in 2015 to con­duct a study look­ing at the is­sue.

The study, which in­ves­ti­gated the preva­lence and im­pact of peer abuse (bul­ly­ing) on the de­vel­op­ment of Ja­maica’s chil­dren, was funded by UNICEF, and found that just over 60 to 65 per cent of stu­dents have been bul­lied at some point in their lives.

“The gen­eral per­cep­tion of re­spon­dents was that bul­ly­ing is noth­ing new, but some­thing that is be­com­ing more preva­lent – get­ting out of con­trol now,” the re­port found.

TYPES OF BUL­LY­ING

Bul­ly­ing in­cludes name-call­ing, mock­ing, threat­en­ing, kick­ing, steal­ing an­other per­son’s prop­erty, spread­ing gos­sip or ru­mours, or mak­ing oth­ers feel bad.

The use of tech­nol­ogy, such as text mes­sages, so­cial me­dia and other elec­tronic means to threaten or hurt the feel­ings of oth­ers is re­ferred to as cy­ber­bul­ly­ing.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the CDA, Ros­alee Gage-Grey, is con­cerned that a high num­ber of Ja­maican chil­dren are be­ing bul­lied. She said most of this bul­ly­ing takes place on the play­ground at school or in com­mu­ni­ties.

“We have had cases where chil­dren are scared to go to school, and we have had to sup­port par­ents to get a trans­fer for the child be­cause it has been so bad,” said Gage-Grey.

“I think it is very im­por­tant for the chil­dren to know that it is an act of vi­o­lence and it can re­sult in peo­ple ac­tu­ally get­ting hurt, and it can af­fect peo­ple so­cially,” added Gage-Grey.

A just-con­ducted na­tional poll in the United King­dom found that two in ev­ery five teach­ers know a pupil in their school who has been too scared to at­tend.

Large num­bers of teach­ers also ex­pressed con­cern about bul­ly­ing in the school they teach, in that they would not send their own child there.

The poll of more than 1,000 teach­ers found that nearly a quar­ter (23 per cent) of those in se­condary and 12 per cent of pri­mary teach­ers thought that bul­ly­ing was such a se­vere is­sue where they worked that they would not be pre­pared to risk their own chil­dren’s well-be­ing.

And wor­ry­ingly, more than a fifth of all teach­ers (22 per cent) said that bul­ly­ing in their school was on the in­crease.

While there has been no such poll in Ja­maica, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Par­ent-Teacher As­so­ci­a­tion of Ja­maica, Ever­ton Han­nam, said that some par­ents un­for­tu­nately see bul­ly­ing as just a part of school life and grow­ing up.

He noted that some school ad­min­is­tra­tors also down­play in­stances of bul­ly­ing.

“A num­ber of schools try not to make it a big is­sue, be­cause they don’t want to lose their top-10 rat­ings,” he said.

“It exists and it is be­com­ing a grow­ing con­cern as par­ents speak to you about the ex­pe­ri­ences they would have had. Maybe they didn’t con­sider it as bul­ly­ing, but once you hear, then you know the symp­toms and you clas­sify it as bul­ly­ing,” said Han­nam.

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