School bullying traumatising for children

Kathmandu, September 19

A young boy in a school in Baneshwor, Kathmandu. was long bullied for being a little different from the rest of the boys.

He was more ‘feminine’ than other boys, and this made him a target for atrocious name-calling, ostracism, and even physical assaults, mostly from other students, sometimes even from teachers.

The student did not know who to turn to, and grew more and more apart from his peers and guardians, doubting his own worth in the society that seemed to dislike him intensely for who he was.

School bullying is so common an occurrence in schools, that most cases are taken without serious consideration not only by the perpetrators, but sometimes even the school management. Many school authorities try to cover up school bullying incidents for fear of tarnishing the school ‘image’.

According to an annual State of Rights of Children News Report Survey taken in 2015 by Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Centre, 62 cases of physical or mental abuse and torture of schoolchildren were recorded in the year.

As many cases were recorded in the first six months of 2015. Likewise, 56 cases of psycho-social problems were also reported in that time period.

“Such incidents can scar victims for life. Bullying may start in a seemingly innocuous manner, with benign-sounding nicknames like Kali, Moti, or Dalli used with no intent of real harm, but things can escalate quickly and victims may not want to go to school to escape the bullying,” said psycho-social counsellor Anita Tamang.

The bullied children exhibit very distinctive behaviours, such as appearing intimidated at all times and having a difficult time speaking up, she added.

Victims shy away from sharing their problems with anyone because they are afraid they will not be taken seriously, and the issue would worsen. “Most bullying victims are children aged between 12 and 16,” she added.

“Many schoolchildren don’t understand how cruel they can become. Children must be educated in this matter. Guardians must take their children’s concerns seriously and keep the teachers updated about such issues. The concerned adults must create a favourable environment where children can speak fearlessly,” Tamang said.

A few schools in the capital have placed a ‘complaint box’ where students can drop their complaints anonymously to address issues such as bullying in school.

Principal of Koteshwor-based Grammar Public Higher Secondary School Raj Kumar Rai said, “Students who hesitate to come to us directly can drop a letter in the complaint box.”

According to him, 12 students have dropped complaints in a month, and the school management has settled the complaints.

“Many children don’t even know how harmful their actions can be. We have been working on educating our students in this regard, and we contact guardians in major cases,” stated Rai.

Nepal does not have a specific law against bullying, but the offence comes under Some Public (Crime and Punishment) Act, 1970. The bully can be booked considering the seriousness of the case.

“If the Public Offence Act has nothing to do with the case,” SP Pradyumna Karki, spokesperson of the Metropolitan Police Range, Teku, said, “The Muluki Ain will be applied.”

Karki said police receive many verbal, but very few written complaints from victims or their guardians on bullying or other related offences. “We have not received any such major complaints till now.”

“If the perpetrator is an adult, he/she will be booked under the laws and sections mentioned in Some Public (Crime and Punishment) Act, 1970. If the person is minor, we make the school authorities aware about the offence,” added SP Karki.