Rakesh (name changed), a Class VI student, refused to go to school. The reason? He was being bullied by his friends as he was a bit plump. They would call him ‘mottu’ and ‘fatso’, which caused him a lot of emotional trauma.
The effect on him was so much that he started avoiding school altogether and shut off from his friends completely. He became more aggressive.
He avoided eating to cut down weight which only made him weak and tired. Fortunately, his parents sought professional help and informed the school authorities. Rakesh is no longer a victim of bullying.
Sixteen-year-old Anitha (name changed) would always crave for attention. She would talk about incidents that never took place, and about a non-existent brother. When her classmates found out that she was lying, they alienated her. Anitha became lonely.
She was often seen sitting alone during lunch break, or in the class. Her class teacher, who noticed this, informed the school counselor. They learnt that Anitha’s parents were separated, which had a huge negative impact on her. Before things could get worse, the counselor spoke to her classmates as well as Anitha, and the matter was resolved.
However, not all are as lucky as Rakesh or Anitha. Calling names like ‘weirdo’, ‘nerdy’, ‘fatso’, etc. is a form of bullying. Children are victims of many forms of bullying such as verbal, physical and relationship. Unfortunately, some fail to get timely help leaving a deep scar on their minds.
That could be because, “Some children are not even aware that they are bullied and that could be one reason why they don’t ask for help. This is where awareness programmes help,’’ says Ishita Datta, Head of Department, Psychological Counselling, Indus International School.
According to her, one of the reasons students bully is to cover up their own insecurities or shortcomings. Interestingly, “Some also take up bullying due to peer pressure,’’ she says.
Counselors say that it is more prominent among the age-group falling under the pre-puberty category though it can surface in children of about eleven years and more. “Any bullying is an assault to human dignity. It’s a way of insulting an individual’s worth,’’ says Prof M S Thimmappa, former professor in clinical psychology.
“When children clap or laugh when someone is bullying, it encourages them to continue. We should tell children not to encourage bullies,’’ he adds.
Many school principals felt that it was the older ones who targeted the younger ones. One of the common ways of bullying includes pulling the hair/tie, hiding tiffin boxes and calling names. It is also observed that children usually bully others in the absence of teachers. “In most cases, bullying occurs during lunch breaks, during the bus ride home or to school, and in hostels. Since many schools now have a ‘bus parent’ — a teacher responsible for discipline in the bus, the bullying has come down,’’ they say.
Principals observe that when bullies are caught, they try to defend themselves or dismiss the bullying as fun. But schools inform their parents and, students are also warned about such acts. Further, many schools claimed that no serious cases of bullying had been reported except for a few stray incidents.
“There is a fine line between naughtiness and bullying. However, our school has a zero tolerance policy on bullying. Most of the time bullying is not physical. It manifests as a kind of emotional torture. The message is clear — bullying is not tolerated,’’ says Sarojini Rao, principal, Indus International School.
Delhi Public School (South) principal Manju Sharma says that children, who are disturbed, exhibit certain behaviour, like scratching in notebooks or answer sheets. “This is a sign of aggression. There is a sense of emotional imbalance. This could be due to bullying or some other reason.”
Many schools have initiated awareness programmes on bullying including regular workshops besides full-fledged counselors.
To begin with, at Delhi Public School (South) one of the morning assembly themes is on anti-bullying. “Every day, students from different classes create anti-bullying awareness. We also have confidence building programmes for the victims of bullying, if any. In case we come across such incidents we counsel the children against it and if the child repeats the offence, parents are informed,’’ Manju Sharma explains.
Little Flower Public School principal Gayethri Devi says, “We have class teachers, subject teachers and counselors to observe childrens’ behaviour. We want to eradicate bullying from the grassroots level.” She adds that the school also discusses various children-related issues in the morning assembly.
Adds Ishita, “At Indus, regular workshops are held. However, one has to find out the target behaviour for bullying. The focus should be on the victim. We also need to explain to the children that bullying neither helps them get friends nor solves any problem. Awareness programmes should create an environment where the victim can easily seek help.’’
Meanwhile, Prof M S Thimmappa says that teachers and parents have a big role in putting an end to bullying. “Teachers should be sensitive to children. Instead of scolding them, they should explain to them the seriousness of bullying — its impact on others and also themselves,’’ he concludes.
Types of bullying
Verbal: Calling names; insulting; teasing
Physical: Pushing; knocking on the head; kicking; hitting
Relationship: Although seen more often among girls, boys are also prone to this sort of bullying. It happens when one person among a group of friends is suddenly alienated by the rest; rumours about the targeted person are spread and he/she is made to feel rejected.