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3 November, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 3 November, 2019 02:01:46 AM
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Anti-bullying policy dearth ‘fails’ schools

“Even the concept school bullying is not clear to many teachers and guardians”
HARUN UR RASHID, Dhaka
Anti-bullying policy 
dearth ‘fails’ schools

A seventh-grader in Dhanmondi Boys’ High School in the capital managed to escape from being pelted by boiled eggs by some classmates in the name of celebrating his birthday on the school premises about two months ago. Five students of his class had planned to pelt the eggs all over Anik’s body on his birthday. But the boy somehow came to know about the plan and informed this to a teacher.

Learning about the matter, the head teacher called the parents of the five boys, who were taken aback hearing such plan by their children. Later, the students were warned not to indulge in such activities.

This incident is an example of school bullying, which range from simple taunts and use of abusive language to extreme cases of psychological and physical torture that take place in and around many educational institutions in the country. While this particular incident does not appear to be quite organised in nature, there are reports of senior school students of class nine and ten forming organised groups in schools that carry out bullying on a regular basis.  In most cases, these happen beyond the knowledge of teachers as well as the parents, guardians.

While bullying is prevalent both in government and non-government schools, these issues rarely come to the knowledge of most guardians and teachers and only the most serious cases get reported.

Experts stressed on imparting moral and ethical values at the family levels and at schools to eradicate these practices and said everybody has to take responsibility for these – the parents and

guardians and also the teachers.   School authorities said they have taken some measures to curb bullying on the school premises, but in most of the cases they are ‘helpless’ in taking any strict action to control the practice as the offenders are also young children. Many of the incidents also go unreported.

Sabina Yasmin, head teacher of Dhanmondi Boys’ High School, told The Independent, “We receive complaints of intimidations or bullying almost everyday. When the matter is serious, we call the parents or guardians and warn the students.  She said they don’t have any other established mechanism to take punitive measures to curb bullying.  

The picture of bullying in the government schools in the capital is grim but the school authorities cannot do much against these because they don’t have any specific rules and regulations to prevent the practices, school authorities said. Head teacher of Government Laboratory High School Abu Syeed Bhuiyan said, “We have reports of bullying in our school. Many of the students don’t inform these to the teachers or parents. But we have reports of incidents taking place.”

“Even the concept school-bullying is not clear to many teachers and guardians. Earlier, we used to allow our students to celebrate RAG Day on the campus on the occasion of the last day of school of class X students. But we have observed that many were victimised by bullying. So we stopped it last year,” he added.

Syeed, who is also a member of the anti-bullying policy drafting committee, said, “Parents are not aware of it. Children are not getting moral education from their homes. We deal with many cases of bullying. We call the parents but cannot take stringent measures.”

“A system of reward and punishment can be introduced. A student will be given negative marks for bad behaviour with others and will reward positive marks for good manners in evaluation sheets,” he added.

However, the picture of bullying or intimidation in the non-government schools is less prevalent as they have several mechanisms including counseling and all-time monitoring by teachers, claimed teachers of such institutions. Both the authorities of the government and non-government educational institutions said bullying or intimidation is not at all acceptable as it affects mental development and disturbs the academic atmosphere.

“We get reports of bullying or intimidation by fellow students. Generally such reports come from the students of Class III and Class IV. Sometimes we hear that some fellow students, as a group, are not talking to a particular student or keeping a student segregate,” said Brother Robi Purification, principal of St Joseph Higher Secondary School.  “But we are careful of it. Whenever we get any report of bullying or intimidation from the students, we immediately solve the matter. If necessary, we call the parents when we deem the matter serious,” he said.

“We also have a separate room for guidance and counseling where two counselors are engaged to deal with such issues. One counselor looks after the psychological issues and another looks into spiritual matters,” he added.

“We have recognized the issue of bullying or intimidating a long time ago. We are maintaining the counseling centre for one decade to deal with such matters,” he added. Besides, the entire school including the classrooms and corridors are under CCTV monitoring, he added. Adelie Shaptarshi, a counselor of the school, said, “When any serious matter of bullying takes place, we look into the incident. We also have our guide teachers and each one of them looks after 20 students.”

Principal Robi Purification, however added: “Bullying does not take place only in schools but in families as well. We have reports that many educated guardians put huge pressure on children for better results. Their wards are engaged with tutors after schools with no free time and space for them. This is a kind of bullying from parents. They should realise it.”  The authorities of Dhaka Residential Model College said they have a zero tolerance policy towards bullying or intimidation on the campus.  

An official, preferring not to be named, said the incident of bullying or intimidation takes place only rarely in the school as the students are under strict discipline. Besides, the school has taken some additional measures like prefectorial body to look into the discipline and welfare of the students and special ‘class teacher period’ to motivate students to refrain from any unruly activities.  

The institution maintains a facebook page titled ‘Report to Principal DRMC’ where students and guardians can directly inform the principal about any matter.

About bullying or hate speech, the page says, “Bullying of any kind isn’t allowed, and degrading comments about things such as race, religion, social status will not be tolerated.” Sabina Yasmin, the head teacher of Dhanmondi Boys’ High School, said, “Everyday our class teachers listen to the complaints of the students for 10-15 minutes before starting a class. It’s really difficult for a teacher to control the children.”

“Students enjoy much freedom now-a-days as the teachers cannot exercise corporeal punishment or other measures. They can only warn the students. And it is not functioning,” she said, expressing helplessness.

“We don’t have any government directive to take punitive measures against students for bullying or intimidation. We take written pledges from students for severe wrongdoing,” she added. Not surprisingly, the incidents of bullying are also prevalent in girls’ schools.  Prof Fouzia Rezwan, Principal of Viqarunnisa Noon School & College said, “Bullying sometimes takes place in here. We get complaints. We try to address those.”

“We discuss these during assembly. But still, we get reports of bullying. If the matter is deemed serious, we talk to those involved. Recently, we had to deal with such an incident,” she said.

She further said that if a policy on school-bullying is made it would be helpful to address it.

Recently, bullying or ragging at universities became a highlighted issue after several incidents including the serious bullying and ragging incident at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology which led to the death of one of students, being tortured by fellow students.

Even UN body UNESCO, in its report, said that more than 23 percent of students in the educational institutions in Bangladesh face bullying by fellow students.

On the other hand, the government is working on an anti-bullying policy after realising the acute prevalence of bullying in the educational institutions.

What the guardians say

A number of guardians of St Joseph school said sometimes their children informed that some of their fellow boys taunt them or children get hurt by others. Then they inform the school authorities or tell their kids to avoid such boys or even inform the teachers immediately in case of any serious issues.  Some guardians of government laboratory school said their children did not inform them anything about bullying. Even the school authorities did not tell them anything about it.  Ferdous Begum, a guardian, said, “Sometimes my child tells me that he has been assaulted by others. I tell him if he faces any trouble by peers, he should tell it to the teachers. We need a greater collaboration between the school authority and guardians.”  

Government formulates draft anti-bullying policy

When contacted over the matter, Director of Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education Director Abdul Mannan told The Independent, “We have sent the draft of the anti-bullying policy to the ministry for further scrutiny before forming it into a law. We also have the court’s order to formulate such a policy. A draft copy has been submitted to the court to inform that we are working on it.”  “Bullying is a criminal offence. The draft policy has incorporated punitive measures against bullying. A holistic approach has been taken in it. It would help curb bullying or ragging,” he added.

Experts stress moral education at home, school

Syeda Tahmina Akhter, professor and director of Institute of Education and Research, Dhaka University said, “Bullying can be both at schools and at family level, which is seriously detrimental to mental development of children.”  “It needs holistic approach both at educational institutions and in the family to teach moral and ethical values including respecting others. The teachers have to take responsibility at schools and tell them to refrain from bullying others at all times including during assembly when all students gathers. If needed, counseling can act here,” she added.  “Proper parenting is necessary at homes. If parents think that schools will teach the students all moral values while schools deem that guardians did not educate the children, bullying will not stop. It needs a collaboration of all,” she added.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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