Written by Miguel Enriquez
With school having just started after a long time away, certain things are slowly getting back to normal. Given our current situation, many things are expected to change to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. One thing that will not change without action is bullying.
Bullying has always been a part of a student’s life. It is up to all of us to see that this should not be the norm going forward. It is important that schools, parents and students alike would be able to recognise when bullying is occurring and how to prevent it. At school, students pick on others all the time for even the simplest things. Whether it’s about someone’s hairstyle, their favourite past time, or even about the people they hang out with.
🔶 Teach students about bullying and its effects¹
One way to help students recognise the negative effects of bullying is to incorporate lectures in the curriculum. It is not enough to simply invite a speaker to tell the students about bullying just as you can’t learn a subject overnight. Some schools already do this in the form of PSCD (Personal, Social and Career Development) lessons. These usually take place once a week in small individual groups where the students would learn, with the help of their teacher, how to stop bullying. During these lessons, students learn how to be more motivated and develop friendships. Above all, they create awareness on the importance of anti-bullying.
🔶 Put a bullying report system in place
When bullying occurs, the student involved, or even other students who would have witnessed it, should have the opportunity to report it. Children are often scared to report bullying behaviour for fear of appearing weak, scared or even end up victimised themselves. When it comes to bullying, it is important that students are taught to inform an adult – such as a teacher – rather than taking matters into their own hands. In the case of the persons suffering the act of bullying, ideally, they should be able to openly discuss it with a trusted adult (e.g. parent or guardian) who is able to understand and help their child².
🔶Two wrongs don’t make a right
It is difficult not to retaliate at the persons demonstrating bullying behaviour in an attempt to hurt them back, perhaps even shame them. However, this would only make things worse. Anger never leads to resolve. Rather, one should either calmly tell such persons to stop or simply walk away and inform a responsible adult. A lack of retaliation should not be confused with one’s right to defend oneself. In each case, removing oneself from a situation where one can get hurt is the priority.
As students get older, bullying only becomes worse, as it develops into acts of humiliation, physical bullying, cyberbullying, threats, among others. As young adults in Sixth Form and University, it most likely will not be enough to simply tell the person exhibiting bullying behaviour to stop or to walk away. There should be a structure in place where the persons suffering from bullying (and even those displaying bullying behaviour) could speak to a professional to help solve the issue.
Remember, there is no shame in seeking guidance from counsellors and/or psychologists.
¹ 7 Ways Schools Can Prevent Bullying. (2012). Our schools need to take a larger role in stopping bullying.
[Online]. https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/how-raise-happy-cooperative-child/201212/7-waysschools-can-prevent-bullying [Accessed 1 September 2020]
² How parents, teachers and kids can take action to prevent bullying. (2011). Bullying is aggressive behaviour
that is intentional and involves an imbalance of power or strength. It is a repeated behaviour and can be physical,
verbal, or relational. [Online]. https://www.apa.org/topics/prevent-bullying [Accessed 1 September 2020]
bBrave chooses to avoid using the words ‘bully’ and ‘victim’ as bullying cases may be very complex. An individual may very well fall into both categories, and labelling individuals with these categories tend to negatively affect the lives of these people.
bBrave is the first anti-bullying NGO in Malta. Its mission is to raise awareness on the different forms of bullying, to facilitate assistance for individuals suffering from bullying and for the reform of individuals displaying bullying behaviour in Malta.
The Organisation is registered with the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations (VO 1422), the Registrar for Legal Persons (LPA-118), and Aġenzija Żgħażagħ (AZ 252/2017). bBrave is also a Core Member of the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), the international coalition of organisations and individuals that are united against bullying.