Society must view bullying as an offence to end it

Published: 00:00, Feb 21,2020


BULLYING in educational institutions that continues apace from schools to universities brings to the fore a worrying issue of collective failure of society. Bullying is yet not treated as an offence — by neither teachers, nor families nor society — and it continues to be largely ignored despite repeated warnings about the damaging consequences that bullying may cause in students. The education ministry, in an effort to tackle the phenomenon, submitted in May 2019 to the High Court a draft on school bullying prevention policy. A member on the drafting committee, however, is reported, as New Age reported on Thursday, to have been unaware of any further development about the policy. In a country where 35 per cent of students aged between 13 and 15 years are reported to be bullied, as a UNICEF report based on incidents that took place in 2014 said in September 2018, such a delay calls out the government on developing and implementing an effective policy to stop bullying.

Despite frequent discussions on the causes that play behind and remedies for the menace, bullying keeps taking place in schools and colleges and ragging — a notorious practice of senior students getting an excuse, under the façade of ‘welcoming’ new students, to harass their juniors, often satiating their perverse pleasure — keeps taking place in universities, sometimes resulting in fatal consequences. Many believe that students who are abused, either physically or emotionally or both, at home at the hands of their parents or guardians tend to act out in aggressive ways by bullying their fellows. Some also think that the continuous use of corporal punishment by teachers to control students, an act which has been criminalised in 2011 on a 2010 court ruling, also encourages students to resort to bullying as an extension to the treatment received. In higher educational institutions, politics and ambition for power and domination come at play when it comes to bullying. The prevalence of a punitive, joyless environment and general lack of tolerance for differences in opinions and ideologies, thus, appear to enable the culture of bullying, the effects of which can be varied, including causing the bullied student to withdraw from social activities and, in extreme situations, to commit suicide. The absence of any government initiative to conduct studies to analyse the culture of bullying to effectively develop a policy to stop the practice only adds to the already alarming situation.

Changes are urgently needed in the attitude of society as a whole to rectify the circumstances. It is, therefore, imperative that the government, educational institutions and society as a whole should recognise bullying as an offence and put in coordinated efforts to end bullying. The government must, therefore, expeditiously work out the policy against bullying and implement it. It must also order cells in educational institutions to contain bullying and the appointment of psychologists to create a safe environment for students to talk freely about their problems. The government must also work with educational institutions in holding workshops involving students, parents and teachers to create awareness of bullying.

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