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Unmasking bullying in schools

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Unmasking bullying in schools

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DOREEN CHIKANYA

Bullying in schools is a fire that spreads like wildfire, scorching the roots of knowledge and growth. It engulfs the classroom like an inferno, leaving emotional scars that burn deep within the hearts of the targeted students. Bullying is a widespread issue in Zimbabwean schools, where it has been said to negatively affect students’ academic performance and safety. Research by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (2020) found that 30 percent of Zimbabwean school children have been bullied at some time in their life. Bullying is a type of aggressive behavior in which someone deliberately and repeatedly causes harm or discomfort to another person. It involves a continuous and intentional abuse of power in interpersonal relationships through repeated verbal, physical, and/or social behavior with the intention of causing physical, social, or psychological harm. Over time, bullying behaviors are repeated or have the potential to be repeated. Bullying at school may be viewed as a metaphysical arena where pupils compete for dominance. Similar to a game of chess, bullies use their victims as pieces in a game of dominance and control over their fellow students.
Causes of bullying include inborn hostility, dysfunctional family, resentment, parental style, teacher favoritism, previously unreported incidents, and a lack of formal institutions that keep bullying in check. Statistically, certain student population subgroups are more likely to be the targets of bullies, including exceptional students, such as the gifted, intellectually challenged students, students with disabilities, overweight or obese or underweight students, and religious minorities.
Bullying may have significant and lingering effects. Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, alcohol and drug misuse, anger, delinquency, self-harming behavior (especially for girls), and aggressive or criminal activity (primarily for boys) are among the negative psychological and emotional effects that bullied kids are more likely to experience. Statistics reveal that those who experience severe bullying are also statistically more likely to try or complete suicide, and bully victims are especially prone to experience suicidal thoughts. Bullying may cause mental health problems in victims who had none before, as well as make those problems worse in young people who already have mental health problems. Moreso, it often results in social isolation for the victims. They may have difficulty forming and maintaining relationships, leading to feelings of loneliness and exclusion.
A report on bullying in Chinhoyi in 2022 revealed that bullying was prevalent at boarding schools, with school prefects using their authority to victimize other students. Two form three students attempted suicide at All Souls Mission High School in Mutoko, while Wesley Shuro, a form two student at Silveira Mission High School in Bikita, committed suicide after being tormented by senior students. Wayne Ndlovu, 16, was stabbed to death by a student from Hamilton High School after intervening to defend his friend. It is a viral storm ravaging Zimbabwean hearts as a destructive force that spreads rapidly, inflicting emotional turmoil on its victims. Bullying in schools also greatly affects Form one and new students, often occurring after study hours, in class, and on the sports field. Both boys and girls are affected, with some victims being asked to do laundry for a senior bully. Victims often hide incidents due to lack of proper action or punishment, highlighting the secret suffering of victims and the importance of addressing these issues for the safety and well-being of all students. Bullying has proven to be a relentless hurricane that tears through the fabric of trust, leaving devastation in its wake.
With the rise of technology and social media platforms, the same monster has taken another form known as cyberbullying which has become a major concern as well. At Mnene high school in Mberengwa in 2020 the senior students were sending threatening or offensive messages online, spreading false information and humiliating individuals through the internet, Facebook and WhatsApp. Cyberbullying is a poisoned tether in digital web, it is a toxic connection that entangles victims within digital landscape
Aspects of bullying prevention and intervention may be covered by laws and policies relating to education and child protection. The rights and obligations of students, teachers, and parents within the educational system are described, for example, in the Zimbabwean Education Act. It highlights the necessity for a welcoming learning environment that is free from bullying or other negative treatment. The Act also stipulates that schools must have disciplinary procedures in place to deal with wrongdoing.
Bullying must be confronted, stopped and eradicated in Zimbabwean schools. For the purpose of preventing bullying, schools already employ guidance and counseling teachers who provide psychological education and counseling to students. To be able to help students experiencing anxiety and emotional stress, they must develop strong psycho-social support ability. Do these initiatives, however, suffice to address the issue of bullying? Because they have classes to teach and the guidance and counseling teams are occasionally overburdened with reports, they are unable to handle these bullying behaviors. As a result, many schools should offer staff training on how to identify and deal with bullying conduct. The training may cover topics including how to deal with cases of bullying, how to help victims, and how to foster a welcoming climate in the classroom. Parents and the larger community must be active in the fight against bullying since it is not only a school issue. Parents must listen to their children’s cry for help and address any difficulties they bring up or detect bullying. Collaboration between governments, educational institutions, and society at large is essential if we are to establish a school environment that is safe and inclusive and tackles this issue. Zimbabwe can only make substantial strides in bullying eradication and fostering a culture of respect and empathy in schools via intensive bullying awareness campaigns, psychoeducation, and strict anti-bullying measures.

Doreen Chikanya
Primary School Teacher
Student studying at GZU towards MSc Educational Psychology
For feedback you can contact her on [email protected]

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