Is a bully-free educational environment achievable?

Harassment at schools

by Muhammad Karim Khan

Bullying is a pervasive phenomenon characterised by the intimidation, coercion, and harm inflicted by one person or a group on another, particularly among peers. It is not merely an isolated incident but rather a repetitive pattern wherein the perpetrator deliberately taunts the victim, often without provocation, to assert dominance over the vulnerable individual.

Research indicates that bullying is not confined to educational institutions but extends to workplaces, public spaces, and even within families.

Those who observe such behaviour without intervening are known as bystanders. Sadly, many instances of bullying remain unreported due to the fear of retaliation and further victimisation.

Bullying manifests in two primary forms: traditional and cyberbullying. Traditional bullying encompasses verbal, physical, and social aggression. Verbal bullying includes name-calling and taunting, while physical bullying involves acts of violence such as hitting or pushing. Social bullying entails spreading rumours or excluding individuals from social groups. On the other hand, cyberbullying occurs online, exacerbated by the widespread availability of internet services. Methods include posting unethical content, hate speech, trolling, and identity manipulation.

Numerous international surveys have identified physical appearance, race, nationality, and socioeconomic background as common motivations for bullying. Research suggests that boys are more prone to physical bullying, while psychological bullying is more prevalent among girls (UNESCO report, 2019).

Shockingly, study reports indicate that 32% of students worldwide experience bullying annually. In the United States, statistics from 2017 (Divecha, 2020) revealed that 25% of black, 22% of Caucasian, 17% of Hispanic, and 9% of Asian students faced bullying in educational institutions.

Similarly, in Pakistan, one in four children experiences bullying during his/her academic life (Academia, 2018). Cyberbullying is particularly prevalent among students from affluent families in colleges and universities (Siddiqui, Krumbholz & Kamran, 2023) owing to the easy provision of smartphones and other gadgets (Saleem, Khan & Zafar, 2021). Traditional bullying is more common in elementary schools.

The repercussions of bullying on victims are profound, affecting their physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being. Victims often experience academic decline, irregular school attendance, distress, low self-esteem, and social isolation. Psychological distress such as anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation are also common outcomes, leaving lasting scars well into adulthood.

To create a bully-free environment in educational institutions, comprehensive educational programmes involving students, teachers, parents, religious figures, and civil society are imperative.

Recent initiatives, such as the week-long anti-bullying training programme conducted online for government teachers and head teachers in Gilgit city, with an aim to equip educators with the tools to foster safe learning environments.

Led by experts like Dr Sohni Zahid, a PhD scholar and external researcher at the Department of Educational Psychology, Technische Universitat Berlin Germany. Her research focuses on the professional growth of teachers concerning anti-social and cyberbullying in educational institutions.

The programme consisted of eight modules to educate teachers and head teachers to provide a safe and secure environment for learners in educational institutions in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Insights gained from anti-bullying interventions shed light on effective strategies for addressing bullying in educational institutions. It emphasizes the importance of both short-term and long-term planning, coupled with proactive and reactive measures. For instance, proactive approaches involve preemptive actions, such as informing parents through commitment letters outlining various initiatives like awareness sessions like establishing classroom norms, enforcing anti-bullying policies, and educating children about the consequences of bullying.

Additional strategies include installing bullying reporting systems like anonymous complaint boxes and organizing sessions on emotional and anger management to foster positive teacher-student relationships conducive to a friendly learning environment.

Furthermore, preventive measures against cyberbullying, such as promoting strong passwords and timely reporting of online abuse, are essential. Victims receive support through one-on-one counseling sessions and problem-solving cycles to address psychological and emotional trauma. Building trust with victims and bystanders ensures the collection of accurate data while maintaining confidentiality to protect their self-esteem.

Encouraging open communication and fostering a positive culture within educational institutions are vital. This enables children to freely share grievances with teachers, administrators, and parents. Maintaining comprehensive records of bullying incidents is crucial for addressing both traditional and cyberbullying effectively.

In summary, bullying, whether traditional or cyber, inflicts intentional harm due to power imbalances. Victims, often from diverse backgrounds, suffer social, emotional, and psychological consequences, including prolonged low self-esteem and confidence issues. To combat bullying, educational institutions must engage in comprehensive strategies outlined in commitment letters, fostering open communication, and diligently recording incidents to effectively address bullying behaviors through problem-solving protocols.

Bullying in educational institutions

Karim Muhammad Khan is the Principal/teacher educator at Boys High School Nomal Gilgit

2 thoughts on “Is a bully-free educational environment achievable?

  • The two preventive checks you have mentioned in your paper are complain boxes and enforcing harsh anti-bullying policies.. bullying is common in every educational institution and really children are disheartening and in stress.

  • Manzoor Hussain

    Dear karim sab i went through the article. it is an informative and well written article. you have discussed pertinent and research based points. we need to materialize all these important points in our schools. keep up your good work Karim sir.


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