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Bullies going unpunished - More than 60 per cent of Jamaican children face abuse from schoolmates

Published:Friday | September 15, 2017 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris

With bullying becoming pervasive and seemingly normalised in Jamaica, the Child Development Agency (CDA) decided in 2015 to conduct a study looking at the issue.

The study, which investigated the prevalence and impact of peer abuse (bullying) on the development of Jamaica's children, was funded by UNICEF, and found that just over 60 to 65 per cent of students have been bullied at some point in their lives.

"The general perception of respondents was that bullying is nothing new, but something that is becoming more prevalent - getting out of control now," the report found.




Bullying includes name-calling, mocking, threatening, kicking, stealing another person's property, spreading gossip or rumours, or making others feel bad.

The use of technology, such as text messages, social media and other electronic means to threaten or hurt the feelings of others is referred to as cyberbullying.

Chief executive officer of the CDA, Rosalee Gage-Grey, is concerned that a high number of Jamaican children are being bullied. She said most of this bullying takes place on the playground at school or in communities.

"We have had cases where children are scared to go to school, and we have had to support parents to get a transfer for the child because it has been so bad," said Gage-Grey.

"I think it is very important for the children to know that it is an act of violence and it can result in people actually getting hurt, and it can affect people socially," added Gage-Grey.

A just-conducted national poll in the United Kingdom found that two in every five teachers know a pupil in their school who has been too scared to attend.

Large numbers of teachers also expressed concern about bullying in the school they teach, in that they would not send their own child there.

The poll of more than 1,000 teachers found that nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of those in secondary and 12 per cent of primary teachers thought that bullying was such a severe issue where they worked that they would not be prepared to risk their own children's well-being.

And worryingly, more than a fifth of all teachers (22 per cent) said that bullying in their school was on the increase.

While there has been no such poll in Jamaica, president of the National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica, Everton Hannam, said that some parents unfortunately see bullying as just a part of school life and growing up.

He noted that some school administrators also downplay instances of bullying.

"A number of schools try not to make it a big issue, because they don't want to lose their top-10 ratings," he said.

"It exists and it is becoming a growing concern as parents speak to you about the experiences they would have had. Maybe they didn't consider it as bullying, but once you hear, then you know the symptoms and you classify it as bullying," said Hannam.