Did you know that October is National Bullying Prevention Month? Students, schools, and communities all over the world rally together against bullying.
Bullying can be defined as an aggressive behaviour towards another individual. It comes in many forms and can lead to emotional trauma on the affected person.
Bullying has always taken place in Botswana schools. The problem is there has always been little or no research/reports done on the topic. I did find an online journal titled Bullying in Botswana: A Review written by Selemogwe, Setlhare-Oagile and Mphele in 2014, University of Botswana’s Department of Psychology.
Usually bullying is a topic that is taken so lightly by students, but the consequences can be devastating. In September 2003 at Matsha Community College, a school based in Kang, Botswana, nine students died after being forced by others to drink ethanol, so reported Bullying in Botswana: A Review (Selemogwe et al., 2014). https://www.iiste.org/Journals/index.php/JAAS/article/viewFile/10017/10974
This is not a foreign topic abroad. The Daily Mail Online reported on the 4th September 2018 that a young boy of only 11 years old was ‘driven to commit suicide because of excessive bullying.’
My Bullying Experience
This subject has always been dear to me, having being bullied. I changed schools in Primary and that can be brutal to a child, especially changing schools in the upper form. I was the new kid when everyone else had a clique. I was the new kid who was awkward, somewhat shy, bookish, and desperate to make friends and be liked by my peers. So entered the bully, I forget some of the things he said now with the passage of time. But I never forgot his name or how it made me feel. He would have forgotten by now I’m sure.
In Setswana we have a saying, ‘Modiri wa lebala. Modirwa ga a lebale.’ (Literally means, the doer forgets his deeds. But the one who experienced his deeds does not forget).
Then there was high school, I have no idea what those two boys were thinking bullying me. By then I had tough skin. I was not awkward or shy. I spoke my mind, threw back the bullying in their face. I refused to be terrorised by the same people I was in the same form with. Ironically, we later become friends.
In both instances it was boys, taking advantage. Maybe I was weaker or easy pickings but you know what I survived bullying.
Types of Bullying
There are many types of bullying. Each is different and unique. But they all have one thing in common, they are all aggressive behaviours that make someone else feel inferior, unwanted and belittled.
- Physical – This is bullying that uses bodily harm. Like beating, pinching, poking etc.
- Verbal – This is bullying that uses words which often includes name calling. These things are usually said when there is a crowd to embarrass and humiliate the child who is being bullied even more. This includes, but is not limited to calling others ‘sematla (stupid/idiot), maswe (ugly).
- Emotional – This type of bullying targets a person’s esteem and feelings.
- Cyber-bullying – This is a form of online tormenting. This is very common now especially in the age of Social Media, which has heightened its extent. People feel that just because they hide behind their smartphones, computers, tablets etc. they can say whatever they want.
- Sexual bullying – This bullying of a sexual nature. It is physical but it also needs to be acknowledged in its own right so it is given the awareness it deserves.
There are many factors that lead a child to become a bully. Witnessing abuse at home, lack of parental guidance, and the influence of drugs are outside influences. Low self esteem and a general need to try to assert one’s power can also lead a child to bully another.
How Can You Tell If Your Child Is Being Bullied?
Sadly so many children are bullied and they are afraid to tell their teachers and even parents. Sometimes because of the threats from the bully/bullies or because of the shame and humiliation associated with being bullied.
- – Withdrawal in the home setting
- – Frequent crying
- – Unexplained injuries and bruises
- – Deteriorating grades
- – Lost or disappearing items (e.g. clothing, stationery etc.)
- – Pretending to be sick and not wanting to go to school
- – Self-injury/ self-harm
- – Having panic attacks/ being anxious
- – Being suicidal
How To Help Your Bullied Child
Below are some steps one could take to assist their child who is or has been the victim of bullying;
- – Take your child for counselling.
- – Create a safe and open environment at home. So they can be able to share things with you easily.
- – Build up your child self-esteem. Keep praising them and encourage them relentlessly.
- – Inform the school about the situation and hold a meeting with school management and the bully’s parents.
- – Teach them to forgive the bully for their own peace of mind and sanity.
As is always the cause, ‘prevention is better than cure.’ If bullying can be prevented then we can help create a conducive school environment, where our children are not only safe but they feel safe.
We need for our teachers and students to be aware of what bullying is, and what will be tolerated. There’s a fine line between being ‘kids being kids’ and bullying. Teachers need to create a safe and supportive environment where children can feel free. If your school doesn’t have one, parents should ask the Guidance and Counselling units to set up an anti-bullying team and invite other stakeholders to assist, e.g. parents, policemen, and counsellors.
I was fortunate. I survived bullying. And I wish I could tell every bullied child that they can too. They matter too. Never let anyone tell them any different.