Dealing with bullying | Daily News

Dealing with bullying

Shehan always felt a sense of disappointment each day he turned over to Sandun’s desk in the classroom. Shehan observed how Sandun was bearing up a lot of pain when boys used to call him sandalwood and humiliated him in different ways. Shehan couldn’t control himself when one day, a few boys were physically assaulting Sandun. Shehan went to his rescue. Little did Shehan know that this brave act would make him a victim of bullying.

Shehan, a student who passed his Grade Five scholarship examination to receive admission into a prestigious school in Colombo had nothing in mind, except performing well academically and becoming an independent man in the future. The day he helped Sandun, a boy who was bullied in school for not being ‘cool’ and not being able to afford sophisticated stationery, Shehan fell prey to bullying.

They started bullying Shehan and Sandun. ‘They’ were a group of 6 – 10 boys. Shehan wasn’t sure, what he had done or hadn’t done to the bullies. What Shehan was sure about was that he didn’t have proper defence, not in any way, shape or form. The moment they turned against him, he turned into ‘their prey.’

The two years that followed consisted of Shehan and Sandun being chased by this pride of lions in and around school, in class and on their way to and from school – there was never a moment they could catch their breath and they certainly had no help from anyone. They were spat at, cornered, kicked and beaten up daily, humiliated and laughed at by the ‘gang of bullies.’ The scholar Shehan was affected even more as they stole his textbooks, tore his homework and scribbled on his notes. Poor Shehan, had to bear all this insult just because he stood up for a friend who was being bullied.

Bullying affected Shehan and Sandun badly. Shehan was so affected that he could not concentrate on his studies due to the stress and anxiety he was going through. There was a significant decrease in his ability to focus on any activity. He had frequent stomach aches and headaches which made him miss school, exorbitant amount of times. Shehan’s academic output was edging off. On the other hand, Sandun was depressed. He always felt lonely and never spoke to anyone. He was always caught in class for sleeping or losing interest in the lesson.

But, Shehan was intelligent. When he observed the curtailment in his grades over time he decided to enlist his father, whom he thought was the best person to approach for such a problem. Shehan told his father the entire story with no attempt of concealment. His father Algama was very angry and resentful at Shehan for concealing this secret for nearly two years. But Algama knew that before anything got worse he had to take a decision.

Algama wrote a letter to the class teacher about the bullying that had taken place within the school premises and threatened to complain to the National Child Protection Authority if no achievable solution was found. The class teacher took immediate action by informing the sectional heads and this resulted in the bullies receiving a two-week suspension from school.

Shehan might have found a solution for his problem but Sandun is still affected. The bullying he went through has left numerous scars in his life. Shehan hasn’t been able to help Sandun in any way. Shehan can only pray to God to protect Sandun from taking a wrong decision like –taking his own life!

Ten years later, Shehan is a successful businessman with a lovely family of five. Sandun has not been able to overcome his sorrow and grief. He indulged into drugs and smoking to relieve his depression, but it has not helped him in any way. Sandun lives alone with his old mother in a distant village. Bullying has destroyed Sandun’s life and career. Shehan’s intelligent action ten years ago has benefitted him in a positive way.

A few years later, Shehan read a newspaper article that caught him off balance. The article was referring to a man who had committed suicide due to the long-term effects of bullying and being singled out. That man was Sandun and he had left a message to the world. “Bullies couldn’t exist without victims, and they don’t pick on just anyone; those singled out, lack assertiveness and radiate fear long before they ever encounter a bully.”

Bullying is a highly unacceptable form of behaviour with long term problems following its tail. Bullying affects children by putting them into situations they are not supposed to experience. Many believe that bullying is a part of growing up, but I stand against it and believe that nobody has the right to infringe the right of a child. Therefore, I have produced three compelling messages to what parents, teachers, principals and students like me can do about bullying.

Bringing about open communication among children and elders

What I believe is that the key factor in the process of bullying is the fear of the victim. What we must spread within the public, especially students in schools is that they must be confident to stand up for themselves. They must be able to communicate with the parties that need to be informed when such a thing takes place. Therefore, a very important message that must spread within the public is that “Open Communication” helps victims to gain assistance from others for the problems they are facing.

When anyone is being bullied, the first step he/she should take is to inform his/her immediate superior. This could be parents, teachers or guardians. As Sri Lankans if you fear that informing your parents or teachers is not going to help, you can inform the National Child Protection Authority on 011- 2778911 and they will surely take necessary action. This way we will also be able to bring out fear in the minds of bullies and this might make them stop bullying others in the long run.

The biggest issue in status quo is that many victims of bullying remain as victims and preys of the bullies. There is less input from the victims to get out of the state they are in. They are oppressed, they feel inferior, yet they don’t respond to it because they are fearful of the bullies who feel superior. The message that must spread among the public is that whatever the circumstances are nobody should ever stand by bullying. Being by standers also affect people in the long run. Therefore, by standing up for bullying you can create a positive impact to your life.

Spread the message that bullying is not tolerated by society

The greatest problem in the world in status quo is that people think that bullying is allowed and there are no rules advocating against bullying. It is important to remove this stigma that is prevalent in society. Therefore, we can produce solutions to stop bullying by advocating bullying prevention policies in schools and throughout the community. It is important to raise awareness about the policies we are introducing. We can develop and distribute print materials advocating against bullying. We can also encourage local radio, television and websites to give public service announcements about bullying. - UNICEF

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