How bullying in schools breeds failure

Bullying has negative consequences and should not be tolerated. Net photo.

Gloria Kamikazi, a form six graduate, didn’t have it smooth in school. Born with a speech disorder – stammering – it was hard for her to let out a word or complete a sentence. And as if that wasn’t enough, a group of students mimicked the way she talked.

Tears were the order of the day. School turned into hell. Was it her fault that she was born different? She asked herself many times. She missed school some days, and her performance started deteriorating.

Just like Kamikazi, many students are bullied at school, due to a number of reasons, like physical appearance, and others might have something that the bully lacks, and in the end, they make their lives miserable instead, among other reasons. 

Whatever the case, no student should be bullied.  Bullying is the use of force, intimidation, or threat, to abuse, aggressively dominate or intimidate. The behaviour is often repeated and habitual.

Bullying is done in many ways, for instance, physical bullying (such as hitting, slapping, kicking or forced to do something), verbal bullying (spoken abuse, insults, cursing, threats, false rumours, name-calling, or ethnic labels), sexual bullying (this could be through use of dirty words, touch, or threat of doing).

Other forms of bullying could be psychologically (for example, harassment, threats and intimidation, humiliation and rejection from the group), bullying in social relations (like, preventing some individuals from exercising certain activities or rejecting friendship or spreading rumours about others) and lastly, property bullying, (this involves taking other people’s things and dispose, or destroy them).

Bullying has created harm, and teachers explain why it causes failure.

Eva Mutumba, a teacher at Little Bears Montessori, Kimihurura, is of the view that bullied students, usually feel unable to concentrate which reconfirm negatively on their academic success. When students feel that bullying occurs at their school, they feel that they are unsafe which reflects on less engagement in school activities.

She projects that bullying is especially found in children from well-to-do families, and those who come from abusive environments.

“Learners that are affected are those that are quiet, and those that don’t find it easy to connect freely to peer groups. It all starts from the way parents communicate to their little ones, who later, pass it on to them, hence, becoming abusive to their colleagues,” she says.

In addition, Mutumba says, the vice can also be transferred from arrogant teachers to students, in the name of disciplining them, yet in reality, they are mistreating them.

Teachers themselves have mocked and given nicknames to students due to their flaws, for instance, the slow learners — how can such students feel comfortable whenever such teachers are in class? Mutumba says.

Usually some learners pick up from where teachers stopped, hence, making other students lives depressing, which kills their self-esteem.

Enos Tumwikirize, a Kigali Parents’ School teacher, says that bullying refers to persisted acts that are intended to make someone’s life unpleasant. In schools, bullying hardens students’ lives and creates a feeling of fear and this affects their mental stability.

In the long run, these students fail to concentrate and eventually they end up performing miserably compared to the rest. In other cases, bullying makes students feel out of place at school. They then decide to dodge school and stay home. This results in missing some lessons. After that, a student’s performance will definitely drop. At the end of it all, the bullied student will even drop out of school, he notes.

Tumwikirize says that being bullied has a negative impact on present and future students’ performance in school as bullying victims are weak, shy, and anxious.  

He also adds that bullying experiences affect victims’ academic achievement in both direct and indirect ways.  Bullied students may become worried and afraid of being teased, hence, refusal to participate in class or group discussions. That way, they will not be able to pass exams due to fear and low self-esteem that could have been created by the bullies.

For him, whether bullying happens at school, after school or on the internet, it has a huge impact on learners. Students are at a higher risk of not liking school and perceiving school more negatively, consequently, doing less well academically.

Nevertheless, David Musabyimana, a teacher at Lye Notre Dame de citeaux, Nyarugenge, points out that it is not too late to curb this vice, teachers and the schools’ administrations have to find means of starting up anti-bullying programmes that are comprehensive and effective, and also impose heavy punishments on the bullies.

“If bullying takes a long period of time, it becomes harmful, and if teachers and parents don’t pay attention, it can even lead to school dropouts or even worse, disappearing from home. Such students can think they are good for nothing or even develop suicidal thoughts,” he says.

Mutumba notes that bullying can happen at any stage, kindergarten, primary, or secondary. When children are just starting school, parents should attend to certain comments about kids. A child just can’t say they don’t like someone, there is a reason as to why, and if you dig deep, you will notice that such people they hate, actually hurt them. There is no smoke without fire.

Musabyimana further notes, as part of the curriculum, students should learn to recognise bullying language and actions in themselves and others. They should also be taught positive communication skills, as this will help create a more positive environment where bullying is less likely to occur.  

He also says, classroom discussions should be conducted, focusing on motivation and effects of bullying, in order to sensitise students and promote self-awareness. Children should understand that bullies have experienced some form of bullying themselves. They behave violently in an effort to react.  Such children endeavor to intensify their self-esteem by surrounding themselves with other children whom they can control, who often feel apprehensive themselves.

“Professionals and teachers ought to teach learners the skills of handling bullies through role-playing and other methods. For example, through writing plays and acting out different bullying scenarios in the classroom. Each child should be part of it, to gain a more concrete understanding of bullying and its dangers,” Mutumba says.

She adds that there should be school events that focus the student body on bullying, that is to say, “Bullying Awareness Week” and even put slogans on the notice boards that demean bullying. But most of all, counselling should be available to the victims, the bullies and for those who help the bullies.

Tumwikirize adds that students should have a support system in place as bullying can only stop if everyone joins efforts — schools, parents, and children. Schools should have strong consequences for bullying and most importantly, families need to examine their family relationships and make sure there is no bullying happening at home.

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