Bullying in schools is a worldwide problem and comprises of behaviours such as teasing, taunting and threatening, amongst others. This article explores the presence of bullying in the society, its consequences, and solutions that can be implemented.
Academic Dan Olweus, in his book "Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do", defined bullying as "aggressive, intentional acts carried out by a group or an individual repeatedly and over time against a victim who cannot easily defend him or herself".
UNESCO's 2019 report "Behind the School Violence and Bullying", stated that children who are frequently bullied are nearly three times more likely to feel like an outsider at school and more than twice as likely to miss school. As a result, it hampers their academic performance.
It has a significant impact on children's mental health, quality of life and risk behaviours. These victims are found to suffer from loneliness, depression, sleep deprivation and often contemplate suicide.
As reported by Professor Sansone, depending on the type of bullying faced at school, victims may display long-term psychological and behavioural impacts that may go on to determine their personalities well into adulthood.
In Bangladesh, according to UNESCO's 2019 report on bullying, 23 percent of school students have been victims of bullying, which had a severely negative and devastating effect on their mental development. Further, UNICEF Bangladesh, in 2019, reported that 32 percent children between 10 to 17 years of age faced cyberbullying and digital harassment.
In India, according to Child Rights and You, a non-governmental organization, around 9.2 percent out of 630 youths surveyed, faced cyberbullying and half of them did not report the incidents to teachers or adults. The Times of India in 2017 published that in Bengaluru, 42 percent of students of Class 4 to 8 have been subjected to harassment by their peers in schools.
In light of such bullying, in 2019, a legal notice was sent to the director of an international school in Dhaka by the parents of a victim who was persistently bullied in school. They claimed compensation from the school for not taking action against constant bullying of their daughter by her classmates since her admission.
The India Times in 2015 reported that 50 students of Class 8, in fear of bullying, fled the hostel by scaling the boundary wall of Navodaya Vidyalaya, risking their lives.
Bullying is not restricted to schools.
In most cases, aggressive behaviour identified at youth persists well into adulthood, and this essentially gives birth to bullying at workplaces. Workplace bullying can be identified as harmful and targeted behaviour occurring at work. Such behaviour can often be offensive, spiteful or intimidating, forming a repetitive pattern over time.
In 2019, Author Crystal Raypole classified workplace bullying to include, targeted practical jokes, purposely misleading about work duties like giving incorrect deadlines or information, continuous denial of requests for time off without an appropriate or valid reason and other verbal abuse including, but not exclusive to, humiliation.
BBC reported in 2019 that research by the University of Copenhagen found a causal link between being bullied at work and heart disease.
The Covid-19 outbreak and imposition of mandatory social distancing globally have led the educational institutes to conduct online classes over platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet. Further, the work from home protocol adopted by most workplaces has resulted in meetings being conducted through the same mediums.
In this new normal, what has also increased are the cases of cyber-bullying in virtual classrooms and webinars.
The Print, an Indian news portal, has reported in July 2020 that teachers are regularly being subjected to online bullying by students or imposters. Through these online platforms, anyone can create Zoom IDs, impersonating names of already admitted students, and verbally abuse tutors or even share embarrassing memes during the virtual classes, while keeping their cameras off.
The private message option in zoom allows one attendee to send vicious private messages to another, without the host of the meeting even knowing about such activity.
With the identification of bullying as a major social problem faced by children in schools and adults at workplaces, it is often questioned as to what instigates such irrational and unacceptable behaviour.
According to BBC's article, "Why Children Become Bullies at School", motives behind bullying has been seen to vary – some bully for popularity stemming from a need to be accepted by their peers; others bully owing to domestic violence and sibling aggression.
Another reason is the emotional dominance enjoyed by the perpetrators culminating in the victims feeling powerless in the face of repetitive bullying. As a result, the victims mould into emotionally distraught individuals.
So how can we possibly eradicate this culture?
A local newspaper in January 2020 reported that the government has decided to frame 'Bullying Resistance Counselling Policy" in order to combat and curb bullying at all educational institutions across the country. The draft policy suggests strict punishment for bullying.
Workplaces can introduce online etiquettes and punishments to prevent cyber-bullying during meetings; similar to workplaces adopting zero-tolerance policy with regards to the same issue. In the United States, the Healthy Workplace Bill of 2001, aims to help prevent and reduce workplace bullying and its negative effects by offering protections to people who experience bullying.
However, all policies shall remain futile unless the victims speak up. People need to speak and campaign more against bullying in order to spread the ideology that such activities are not applauded but rather resented.
While legal action can be taken against such activities, the first step should be for the institutions to resolve such matters internally, as by taking such actions, they will be setting examples for generations to come. Only through collective effort can we eradicate this menace from society and build a nation of confident individuals.
Barrister Mariha Zaman Khan is an Advocate of Dhaka District & Sessions Judges Court.
Safura Mahbub is a BPTC graduate and an Accredited Civil/Commercial Mediator.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.