Schools no place for bullies

Editorial, Normal

AS examinations are completed, children are looking forward to the end of their school year.
While some anticipate the end of the year as a time for rest and relaxation, many look forward to the holiday season for a totally different reason.
They want to be rid of the bullies that have caused their lives at school a living hell.
It is a national epidemic that is getting worse each year as students experiment with drugs and alcohol.
While it is a cause for concern in other parts of the world, it is getting scant attention from parent and school boards in Papua New Guinea.
The so-called cult movement in schools is really nothing more than a social hierarchy created by bullies in schools.
Students are coerced or bullied into joining the groups and to follow the dictates of the school bullies.
The scars from bullying can be life long and devastating. It has been known elsewhere to cause youth suicides.
School boards, managements and parents need to recognise the corrosive effects of bullying, to device practical tools to combat bullying, to empower children, and protect victims including providing counselling services.
Bullies have such power over children that they frighten them into not telling on them to their parents or teachers.
They can control children to part with their lunch money or food.
These can deteriorate to sexual favours even.
Where a student does complain to his or her parent, the parents often make the mistake of advicing their child to “just ignore him/her”.
This is not only ineffective, it can make things worse.
Ignoring the bully can make sense up to a point but not always.
The issue is about power and control over somebody.
If the bully can make you go silent, then he is in total control over you. That can be very powerful.
There are other times when a student tells on another student that is being bullied and the advice normally goes out: “Do not get involved. It is none of your business.”
That too is wrong. It condones bullying and there is the assumption that the bully has so much power that it is useless to intervene. Bullying must be reported on and corrective action taken by students, teachers and parents.
If you ask students, the majority will say that bullying is really unpleasant to observe in the school but only a handful try to intervene to correct the situation.
Where other students or teachers speak up, most of the time the bully will back down.
The bully himself is often a frightened person himself who is testing his powers.
Once that power is challenged, the bully will back down most of the time.
There is a popular expression that goes “don’t be a tattletale”.
This is harmful also.
Tattling makes someone look bad.
Telling, on the other hand, is a service to the person affected. It is heroic to stand up for someone who is being hurt.
To advice your child to “just be nice” also does not work in a bullying situation. It can make the situation worse.
Being kind and considerate is ideal but there has to be set boundaries.
When a student makes it obvious to his friends that there is a limit to which he or she can stand certain actions or language, it helps the child to be “bullyproof”.
While physical violence must never be condoned, if a bully is in the habit of hitting another, perhaps it is time he got a sharp whack. 
When he feels the pain inflicted back on him, it can bring drastic changes in his or her approach to others.
A brief remark such as “really?” or “seriously?” can take the focus of insults and place it back in the aggressor’s lap. “Whatever” or “what?” can also have the same effect.
Whatever it is, parents, teachers and board members of schools must device effective strategies to make schools safe from bullies.
It is a sad day for this nation if a student must daily trudge to school dreading another day of bullying when the child is supposed to be learning.
The scars of bullying can last a lifetime and even shape the psychology of the future adult.