You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated: Maya Angelou
As the sun set and I indulged in the literary wonder of my book, my cousin, a recent Class 10 examinee, paid me a visit. Amidst my engrossment, he implored me to grant him access to my mobile device to partake in the delights of gaming. With a twinkle in his eye and a grin on his face, he logged onto the free fire game, eager to embark on a virtual adventure. However, his escapade was rudely interrupted by the intrusion of a bully from his social circle, bent on harassing him. The tyrannical behaviour of the bully towards my cousin was ruthless and merciless. As I eavesdropped on their conversation, my cousin’s once gleeful expression morphed into one of pallor and shame. Witnessing his distress, I too felt an indignant anger rise within me. How could someone derive pleasure from belittling and harassing another person? It was a stark reminder that innocence can sometimes come at a steep price. I implored my cousin to divulge the reason behind the bully’s malevolent behaviour. His response only served to fuel my outrage. The bully had a propensity to harass and torment my cousin, regardless of any reason or provocation. I urged my cousin to report him, but he was apprehensive, citing the bully as a friend.
Bullying is an insidious phenomenon that can take many forms, be it verbal, physical, mental, or even cyber. Its impact on the psyche of young students cannot be overstated, and its prevalence in Indian schools and colleges is a matter of grave concern. Harassment and bullying have long plagued our society. But yet the mechanisms to combat it are insufficient. As the great philosopher Aristotle once said, “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” Let us strive to create an environment where bullying and harassment are not tolerated, and our youth can flourish without fear. However, according to a study conducted by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) in 2019, nearly 56% of students in Indian schools reported experiencing bullying. The study also found that verbal abuse was the most common form of bullying, followed by physical bullying and cyberbullying. Additionally, a survey conducted by the Indian National Bar Association in 2017 revealed that 70% of students in India have experienced some form of bullying in their lifetime. These statistics highlight the pressing need to address the issue of bullying and harassment in schools and colleges and to provide a safe and nurturing environment for students to learn and grow. It’s important to note that many cases of bullying and harassment go unreported due to various reasons such as fear of retaliation, and social stigma. Therefore, the actual number of cases could be much higher than what is officially reported.
The traumatic memory of being subjected to bullying and harassment in school still sends shivers down my spine. I distinctly recall a time when my weakness in mathematics made me a target of ridicule by a supposed friend. Their insensitive actions, such as making fun of my struggle to comprehend the lesson, amounted to nothing less than outright harassment.
One’s deficiency in a particular subject ought not to be conflated with utter futility, for it is a common misapprehension among educators to believe that such pupils are irrevocably inept. Indeed, individuals possess disparate aptitudes and could excel in one domain whilst faltering in another. In the pursuit of maintaining discipline, some educators resort to criticizing students, but in doing so, they inadvertently open the door to harassment. As non-fiction author Brené Brown states, “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” By shaming students, educators risk undermining their confidence and motivation to learn, leaving them vulnerable to the bullying behavior of their peers. Instead of utilizing shame as a tool for discipline, educators should seek alternative methods that uplift and empower their students.
As the renowned author and educator Paulo Freire remarked, “The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.” By fostering a positive and supportive learning environment, educators can help students reach their full potential and become the best versions of themselves. A heart-wrenching tale was relayed to me by a dear relative. His daughter was subjected to abhorrent behavior by a senior student, who forbade her from sitting with them on the bus and even went so far as to toss her belongings aside. The impact of such harassment on mental health cannot be overstated. Its insidious effects leave indelible marks on the psyche, as the bruises are not only physical but also deeply ingrained within the mind. The scars can last a lifetime, making it nearly impossible to erase the painful memories. It is imperative that bus conductors take note of such incidents and make it their duty to ensure that such behavior does not occur on their watch. A fundamental principle of decency is that everyone should be treated equally, with no one person being deemed superior or inferior to another. It is the responsibility of bus conductors to ensure that such principles are upheld and that every passenger feels safe and secure while using their services. As the revered civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The smallest of acts of discrimination can have far-reaching consequences, and it is, therefore, critical that we remain vigilant in our pursuit of a just and equitable society.
How to tackle bullying and harassment
The scourge of bullying can leave deep emotional scars on its victims, causing immense pain and trauma. Educational institutions must prioritize creating committees that allow students to safely report incidents of bullying and harassment. The existence of such committees will ensure prompt and fair investigations of any complaints filed. It is crucial to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students to learn and thrive. Yet, taking proactive measures to protect oneself and seeking help is crucial. Start by confiding in someone you trust, be it a loved one or a trained professional. Opening up about your experience can offer much-needed support and a fresh perspective. Documenting the bullying incidents, including dates and times, can serve as crucial evidence if you decide to report the matter to an authority figure. Standing up for yourself is also an empowering act that sends a clear message that bullying is not acceptable. Engaging in self-care activities, such as exercise, reading, or spending time with loved ones, can help to promote mental well-being and reduce stress. It is essential to remember that you are not alone in this fight. Numerous resources and people are available to support you and guide you through this challenging time. As the celebrated author and activist Maya Angelou once said, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” With courage and resilience, you can overcome the scourge of bullying and emerge stronger and more empowered than ever before.
The author is a columnist and is pursuing MSc in Zoology from HNBGU Uttarakhand Dehradun. He tweets @peermohdamir and can be mailed at [email protected]