Silent Suffering 

Bullying in Indian schools is becoming a significant threat to the nation’s youth. Based on the research paper published by Shweta Singh, BHU, in ResearchGate, around 50 to 60% of students experience bullying, which can harm their mental health and, in extreme cases, lead to tragic loss of life. School bullying involves aggressive behaviour that leaves victims unable to cope with the trauma, leading them to suffer in silence causing increasing psychological stress. Students often lack access to counselling support and feel ashamed of the harassment, which, in some instances, takes their precious lives. 

Interviewing with MyKolkata, Devi Kar, Director of Modern High School for Girls, Kolkata, said bullying exists in every institution in some form or another. “The tendency to assert power over others is universal, and it is often demonstrated from childhood. Unless this is addressed early in life, it could lead to disastrous consequences.”  Telegraph India

There have been several instances where students took their lives due to bullying. In 2022, the suicide of a 16-year-old Faridabad DPS student, Arvey, due to bullying by seniors shocked India. Arvey’s suicide note revealed incidents of bullying and sexual assault experienced at school. His mother, Aarti Malhotra, also a teacher at DPS, fought for justice, blaming school management for negligence.

Another distressing incident was reported from the same area, Delhi NCR, where three seniors sexually assaulted a nine-year-old student in the school bus three times between July 27 and August 1, 2018. The schoolboy’s parents subsequently filed a lawsuit under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act after he reported to his female teacher about this horrific bad touch incident, but she disregarded them. More unsettling bullying incidents are occurring in Indian schools, which makes us question: Is justice too expensive to be served even in cases where someone has died? How do innocent brains find themselves in such abusive circumstances? 

A report published by UNESCO revealed that one in every three students (32%) had encountered bullying by their seniors in schools at least once in the last three months, and a similar portion was affected by physical violence. In India, a five-year Bangalore-based study conducted for 15 locations in the nation reveals that 42% of school students from classes 4th to 8th while 36% of higher school students from 9th to 12th standard agree to be harassed by peers on school campuses. Surprisingly, there is no definite pattern of bullying observed; it might begin with fun teasing in the classroom and reach up to intense physical fights that take deadly forms. In major cases, school authorities were ignorant and reluctant to support victims out of fear of reputational damage. 

The adverse psychological effect of bullying doesn’t fade away with time; any victim will carry the burden over a lifetime. The UNESCO report further presents the data for gender composition, where 26% of boys reported experiencing physical bullying. In comparison, 19% of girls are likely to encounter psychological bullying from peer groups or seniors. Such alarming data insights question the value delivered by the Indian education system, where morals and ethics are just restricted to academic books. Are parents equally accountable for their children’s involvement in exploitative situations? The more we, as a society, ignore this adverse problem, the more it will affect the future of these innocent kids. 

The psychology behind the growing number of bullies among school students shows the absence of mental and behavioural health awareness. Teens losing their minds due to aggression and anger demonstrate influential behavioural patterns that overpower with time, and they look for innocent victims to vent their frustration. Parents and school authorities are key to reducing the negative impacts of bullying. Schools can implement awareness programmes, offer counselling, establish anti-bullying committees, and enforce strict anti-bullying rules. Meanwhile, parents can monitor their children’s behaviour for any signs of change or emotional distress. Any small action would be more effective than staying silent till the situation gets worse, taking the lives of innocent students.

Regrettably, even with the rising instances of bullying in Indian schools, there are no formal policies or laws established to safeguard students’ rights against such behaviour. However, the Government of India has articulated a few guidelines for schools and colleges in lieu of preventing bullying. Major bully cases were registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012; the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860; and The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. It’s high time that the Indian government came up with strict laws as guidelines and measures found ineffective and non-compliant by school management and authorities. 

The growing problem of bullying in Indian schools points to weak policies, loopholes, and ineffective guidelines. It’s essential for schools to disrupt the pattern of bullying, particularly since some victims might become bullies themselves in a bid for revenge. Ignoring the root causes will only make the problem worse. To address this issue, school authorities should take a comprehensive approach. This involves implementing rigorous disciplinary actions, like suspending or expelling bullies as needed, and providing anti-bullying education for teachers and staff. Schools ought to promote student-driven efforts and offer diverse avenues for reporting bullying incidents, such as suggestion boxes, online forms, and dedicated teams focused on addressing student grievances. These combined efforts can help create a safer and more inclusive school environment.

Established schools, especially those in the Delhi NCR region, have school committees, including student representatives, to address bullying; they have placed complaint boxes, allowed separate break times for seniors and juniors to avoid collisions, and increased children’s access to counsellors to ensure a safer education environment for youngsters.

Finland has initiated a programme called KiVa, shortened for “kiusaamista vastaan,” which means “against bullying.” Educators and researchers developed KiVa’s curriculum using educational sessions and computer-based games to transform bullying. Countries such as the Philippines have comprehensive anti-bullying policies that encompass provisions aimed at addressing both physical and psychological abuse in schools. One of the widely tested schemes, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Programme, resulted from the first scientific study on bullying and outlines that individual cases are a cultural sign of a broader acceptance of tolerance for victimisation. It advocates for basic training against bullying for the entire school and transforms the rigid mentality towards bullying through a sense of empathy. 
Indian schools have the option to embrace a collaborative approach in tackling bullying. This strategy includes creating a formal anti-bullying law and developing a clear plan for managing bullying cases. In doing this, schools can turn the adverse effects of bullying into more constructive and nurturing environments.

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