How schools and students are fighting bullies
Bullying is common in schools across the country. A 2019 survey conducted by The Teacher Foundation and Wipro Applying Thought in Schools (WATIS) in nine cities in India has shown 42% students between Classes 4 and 8 and 36% students between Classes 9 and 12 have experienced it
Mumbai: Last week Aditya Birla World Academy (ABWA) observed ‘Odd dress day’, where students and teachers turned up dressed unconventionally. They wore striking socks and shoes, donned their shirts the other way around, some fixed their ties on the back, while some male students wore dresses. It was a representation of a sub-culture, as much as to cock a snook at teasers on campus.
“It was a day to simply speak about ‘I am who I am’ and ‘I need to accept me just the way I am’. That was the larger takeaway for the student body,” said Aachal Jain, Pastoral Care Coordinator at ABWA, of the institute’s anti-bullying squad, set up in 2019, to combat rampant verbal bullying.
Bullying is common in schools across the country. A 2019 survey conducted by The Teacher Foundation and Wipro Applying Thought in Schools (WATIS) in nine cities in India has shown 42% students between Classes 4 and 8 and 36% students between Classes 9 and 12 have experienced it.
It led to schools setting up anti-bullying squads in the same year, but the endeavour did not fly, thanks to the Covid-19 induced lockdown in March 2020. With the return of in-person classrooms verbal bullying cropped up again, leading to the squads being revived. With ‘Anti-bullying day’ (instituted in 2007), which is observed on February 22, round the corner, discussion on this form of tyranny is back on the table.
Surabhi Shenoy (not her real name), an emerging sportsperson in a south Mumbai school, was often bullied for not making the mark in academics. It adversely impacted her grades, confidence and the ability to be socially compatible. But when she saw similar events recurring with fellow students, the ninth grader decided to speak up. “I complained to the school’s anti-bullying squad and got some relief,” she said.
“I used to be bullied for the way I looked. But now that I am in the anti-bullying squad I feel good when I help a victim feel better,” said Parth Shah, a Class 9 of ABWA. His classmate Keisha Shan feels likewise, as it “makes me feel better knowing that I helped someone who was bullied at school”.
When schools offered online classes, bullying also flourished on social media groups formed by students, said Shuchi Shukla, principal of Chembur-based Kanakia International School. The groups are clique-driven and impenetrable. “Students are easily told off; and we saw many changes in the behaviour of those in the closed groups. Body shaming was common. So we came up with an anti-bullying policy,” said Shukla. “Most of the time, victims’ parents also urge us to take action against the bullies, but we need to listen to both sides. This policy helps students, teachers and parents maintain a bullying-free atmosphere on campus.”
Malad-based Orchid The International School’s anti-bullying policy has an SOP of rights and responsibilities of the school towards this malaise and the behaviour expected of students. Jayashri Bhake, school principal, said, “Frequent one-on-one sessions with students ensure that they can express their problems. The principal and academic coordinators randomly meet five to seven students each day for casual discussions. These chats often lead to a strong emotional connection.” Students from various classes meet in the school’s anti-bullying club, and together with the help of teachers, initiate awareness activities.
Madhura Phadke, principal of AM Naik School, Powai, has observed that bullying often occurs as early as the pre-primary section, entailing the involvement of students from Class 1 in the squad. “Even though bullying takes place in both the staff room and among parents, we have a policy in place to combat both, so that we maintain a learning-ready atmosphere in our school,” she said.