Bullying is dreaded by parents, it is shunned by teachers and feared by good pupils.
In many boarding schools, it is even systemized as “cutting tail”! In such schools, the authorities shielded pupils by attaching each new junior student to a senior student who would act as big brother.
In the past, bullying hardly ever led to death. It may have led to injury, it may have led to psychologically scarred pupils, but it never led to death.
Bullying as traumatic as it often is, is sometimes seen as an integral part of growing up or a way of toughening up the child for the hazards of living in the obstacle rave called life!
Bullying, is actually a form of youth on youth violence, particularly in school settings. Bullying is defined by aggressive behaviour that occurs repeatedly over time and within the context of a power imbalance. Most school-aged children are exposed to bullying in some form due to the unequal balance of power and influence that is so common in youth relationships and peer groups. Research shows that bullying and harassment in schools increases in late childhood and peaks in early adolescence, specifically during junior secondary school and typically takes place in unstructured settings such as the cafeteria, hallways, and playground!
Students need school to be a positive climate where they can feel safe and secure. A positive setting reduces their own stress and potential aggression, allowing them to focus on the learning.
Fortunately, there are actions that students and school staff can take to prevent bullying and harassment in schools. Such actions create a more positive school climate. One of such is very close supervision of hostels and boarding houses.
Without such close supervision by adults, aggressive ones may start to prey on the gentle and restrained.
Indeed, everyone is aghast at the event that took place in Lagos State which led to the Lagos State Government ordering the indefinite closure of Dowen College, located in the Lekki area of Lagos, pending the outcome of an investigation into the death of Master Sylvester Oromoni (Jnr), a student of the school. The announcement was made by the Lagos State Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, after a meeting with the School’s Management and Staff on Friday, December 3, 2021.
The death of the 12-year-old student of the college, Sylvester Oromoni Jnr., had elicited various reactions from Nigerians as they demand justice for the deceased. Media reports had emerged that Sylvester was allegedly assaulted by members of a school cult group.
He had mentioned their names before his death. A report said that Sylvester, who was bullied and beaten by fellow students was said to have died from injuries sustained from the beating. However, Dowen College, in a press statement that went viral on social media, denied all allegations stating that Oromoni was neither bullied nor beaten but only complained of hip pain after playing football. The child’s father, stated that contrary to what Dowen College had said in the statement, the family friend who they sent to pick up Oromoni Jnr. from the school described a totally different situation. The bereaved father stated that his son was bullied and beaten to stupor!
“The next day, we sent a family friend to help pick up our son since he was the only person in Lagos and take him to the hospital. When he got there, he panicked, pointing out that he doubts it’s a football injury as the school claimed.”
Without preempting the outcome of the investigations by the Lagos State government and the police, one can say without fear of contradiction that cultism which uses bullying as a strategy to enforce its rules is rampant in our colleges and universities. Bullying is at the root of cultism in our secondary schools and universities.
In the past cultism was unheard of in the secondary schools. It used to be restricted to the universities where it is used to intimidate students, lecturers and the university authorities. Many dreams have been killed as a result of cultism in the universities.
Our society had tolerated cultism in the universities where cultists are even courted by politicians, so much so that the bad behaviour has now permeated the secondary schools. Boarding secondary schools are now becoming breeding grounds for cultists and bullies! Sadly, perpetrated by children whose parents have outsourced parenthood to the schools! How do we get rid of bullying in our schools permanently?
Some people have suggested in the light of what happened to Sylvester at Dowen that boarding schooling should be abolished. But that would be like throwing away the baby with the bath water. This is more so that cultism also exists in day schools. Bullying in schools sometimes arises from harsh parenting practices or sibling bullying at home. Even parents’ workplaces matter. Adults experience bullying in their workplaces at about the same rate as children in schools, and it’s even found among teachers and communities.
In other words, bullying is not just a childhood problem; it is a pervasive human problem. Children are not buffered from the wider social world. Ultimately, we need a substantial shift in our mindsets about the importance of children and their feelings. Children are more likely to thrive when we nurture their humanity, and offer them language and strategies that help them identify, express, and, thus, regulate their feelings.
When parents, teachers, and administrators gain new awareness into the complex roots of bullying and adopt new strategies for addressing it, schools can lead the way. The kids are counting on us.