THE NATION – Sri Lanka

This article comes from the Sri Lanka newspaper.

Bullying is a problem that millions of teens face around the world. In Sri Lanka, bullying affects children more than it would in a country such as the US, simply because most parents and teachers would not accept the fact that bullying can have severe repercussions.

According to a study conducted by the College of Community Physicians in Sri Lanka, 78.1% of the boys in Kandy alone are victims of bullying, whereas 26.5% of the girls suffer from bullying. The parents, teachers and other adults do not always see or understand how extreme bullying can get, and in some cases, they know it happens but they choose to look the other way instead of taking action, because that is the easier and less messier path to follow.

In Sri Lanka, bullying is not considered much of a problem because it is not an issue that has been addressed time and time again. However, even though we do not have school shooters and other such drastic actions taking place, Sri Lankan schools, especially the government schools are the foundation that creates bullies in Sri Lanka.

We all know that bullying is not a characteristic that is unique to schools or kids. It happens among adults, in any environment as well; home, work or social meeting places. But for it to take place in adulthood, the seeds are laid in childhood. As mentioned above, schools can be the starting point and the breeding ground for bullies.

What is Bullying? Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behaviour among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behaviour is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.

According to a site named, Sri Lanka is one of the countries that is facing the bullying issue, which is affecting their whole community starting from the children and ending with the adults, whether in schools or in the workplace. Bullying comes in its different shapes and ways, it doesn’t differ whether it’s a male of a female; both can be bullies and can be bullied. In Sri Lanka, bullying took its place more through the technological era, which is referred to as cyber bullying that mostly goes among the ages of 13 and 18. In Sri Lankan schools, especially government schools, bullying both physical and psychological is rampant. It was also found that boys are more likely to be both the victims and the perpetrators, and they usually use physical intimidation and violence, while girls does not always take part in the bullying acts, but when this happens they usually depend on the verbal and the social bullying.

“I was new to the school in Grade six and there was a group of boys who kept picking on me,” said 18-year-old Damith who attended a government school in Colombo, “They would trip me and poke me and call me names. Once, they even surrounded me during the interval and beat me up. To this day, I don’t know why they would do that.”

Children who usually tend to be bullies or to be bullied are usually those who might be suffering some violence on the personal and family level. Children always find different types of reasons to bully others, like sexuality or ethnicity for example, and they usually tend to bully those children who seem to be less powerful than them, they go to those who can’t defend themselves like the disabled children because they usually appear to be the youngest and the weakest.

Bullying usually appears when there is lack of supervision from the school’s teachers and whoever is responsible and this usually happens in the overcrowded schools. Bullying in schools might take different forms, it might be physical like tripping, hitting or spitting on the victim or it might be verbal which not only comes in the form of insulting the person being bullied but it might come in the form of gossiping about the person.  In order to prevent any act of bullying in schools, parents and teachers should play a big role in the process; they should teach their children to make friends not enemies and to engage themselves in the social life and its activities.

The symptoms that can appear and can be identified easily on the child being bullied are:

  1. A drop in the school grades.
  2. The child coming home from school with torn clothes, which says that he was engaged in a physical type of bullying.
  3. It might also be in the need for money and asking for it on a regular basis.

Bullying in Sri Lanka is considered as some kind of child abuse, which can be carried by one or more adolescent and can occur occasionally, not only that but it appears in almost all the schools, and statistics shows that 31% of the students at school have been bullied at some point of their lives. Studies also found that boys have a stronger percentage to be bullies and to be bullied, but that doesn’t mean that girls can’t be bullies.

The main problem with not dealing with the core of the bullying acts is that it differs in each school, and usually students take the behaviour with them outside schools and back home, statistics even show that a young bully has one in four chance in having a criminal record before they reach the age 30. Tackling the bullying problems in the Sri Lankan schools lately, some researches were done and showed that students who do bullying acts usually consider themselves more powerful, and 15% of them are usually involved in these acts, and this goes to different reasons that are not always the same and might be difficult to know them all, but the most apparent one goes back to the family and personality characteristics of the bullies themselves, the thing that was discovered through the survey is that some of them just do such acts out of boredom.

To fight the huge appearance of the bullying acts that appeared in some schools the time the school was built; the governments in Sri Lanka started implementing new programmes. One of these programmes is “focus on bullying”, which is a prevention programme for elementary school communities, which in order to work out and be successful it should include the administrators, staff, students, parents, and community members who must support its implementation.