27% of day scholars and 37% of boarding students reported having been bullied in schools: The PEMA

Bullying is happening depending on the class level and age level in schools across the country.

However, the severity of the bullying is not known. In order to deal with bullying, The PEMA has instituted guidelines for anti-bullying mechanisms in educational institutions.

The PEMA Secretariat, in collaboration with Career Education and Counselling, is orienting over a thousand participants comprising principals, counsellors and psychosocial focal persons from 535 schools.

Ten School Guidance Counsellors were identified and trained as National Trainers on February 15 and 16. The nationwide orientation is being conducted by these counsellors in five parallel virtual sessions on February 28 and March 1.

The virtual orientation is aimed at providing schools with the knowledge and skills necessary to create a safe and supportive learning environment, institute preventive mechanisms and restorative response services. As an outcome of this initiative, schools across the country are expected to devise their school-specific Standard Operating Procedures for Anti-Bullying Mechanisms.

In Bhutan, 27% of the students reported having been bullied of which 2.4% were bullied ten times or more. While bullying was found to have occurred similarly regardless of age or sex, 34% of boarding students were bullied as opposed to 24% of day scholars.

Given the pervasive links of bullying with children’s health, well-being and learning, the guideline aims at nurturing a safe and harmonious learning environment for the children and youth; enhancing psychological well-being and resilience of the children; and providing a strategic reference for the educational institutions to base their anti-bullying initiatives on.

Bullying usually involves three parties, where students exhibit bullying behavior and it can be physical as well as verbal. Further, bullying can also be perpetrated online through emails, gaming and social media platforms, also known as cyberbullying.

Bullying is harmful because the resultant coercion or intimidation has short and long-term physical or psychological harm on those being bullied, and also those who bully. However, mere teasing or joking without any intent to inflict harm, trading of insults and expressing ideas may not constitute bullying, if accepted by the receiver.

The bullying signs in a student are categorized as physical and psychosocial.

Some of the physical signs include declining academic performance and loss of interest in academic works; repeated loss or damage of clothes, bags, money, electronics or other belongings; stealing; unexplained cuts, bruises and injuries; changes in eating patterns or loss of appetite/weight and many more.

Some of the psychosocial signs includes signs of anxiety about going to school, sudden behavior change, reduced self-esteem, and self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves and talking about suicide and others.

Similarly, the reasons for a student exhibiting bullying behavior include unhappiness; feelings of inadequacy; difficulties at home; and a desire to appear powerful. At times, students bully because they have been bullied as well. A student who exhibits bullying behavior are categorized as having physical and psychosocial signs.

Some of the physical signs include, getting into brawls and quarrels; befriending other students who exhibit bullying behavior; being aggressive to parents, teachers or other adults;

Some of the psychosocial signs include declining responsibility for their actions; holding positive views toward violence; indicating a lack of empathy for those who are bullied; exhibiting egocentric and craving attention.

On the Policy front, the National Youth Policy focuses on the overall growth of young people between the age group of 13-24 years of age through unique and diverse interventions.

The preventive measures must be guided by the aspirations to promote safety; instil foundational competencies; create awareness in a sustained manner; and develop the capacities of the teachers, support staff and parents/guardians. Students must be informed and reminded that bullying in any form is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

To institute effective anti-bullying preventive mechanisms, a whole-of-society approach must be adopted.

Meanwhile, the Guidelines for Anti-Bullying Mechanisms in Education Institutions was launched by Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen.

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