Bullying, physical abuse rife among school students too Teaching & learning

Meera Srinivasan

CHENNAI: The death of 20-year-old Rajkumar on Sunday, nine months after he slipped into coma following an injury caused by a classmate, has turned the focus on the issue of aggression inside classrooms.

If you thought it is only the senior students who indulge in such acts, you are mistaken.

Clashes, bullying and physical abuse of peers seem to be prevalent in even primary sections of schools.

Meera Gopi, primary section head of TI Matriculation School, says teachers’ lives are getting increasingly tough.

“For children who are aggressive, even a two-minute break will do. How does a teacher, who is with 30-40 students, manage?” she asks.

At a private school in Adyar, a Class II student caused serious injury to his classmate after a tiff. “When you see them fight, it is like a stunt sequence in an action film. We have to closely supervise the children’s behaviour even during break time,” said their class teacher.

“My daughter went to school and beat the boys in her class. They are all scared of her now,” a parent proudly proclaims about her four-year-old child in kindergarten.

The implications may not be serious in all cases, but the tendency is certainly worrisome and has to be taken seriously, say experts.

Paediatrician and adolescent physician S. Yamuna says a number of parents bring their children to her, complaining of their violent behaviour with siblings and friends.

Attributing such aggressive responses to changes in parenting and exposure to visual media, she says unless parents address this problem soon enough, things will get worse.

“Whether it is films or your video games on DVDs or even cartoons, only the one who stands powerful is considered the ‘winner.’ This idea gets ingrained in their minds,” she says.

Ms. Gopi also feels that students consider such acts heroic and tend to imitate screen characters.

Pushing others while descending the stairs or kicking and punching each other are becoming “normal things” for children, teachers note.

Desensitisation to violence and injury is a major issue, Dr. Yamuna says. “When children are overexposed to violent visuals, they start believing it is normal and absolutely fine to be so.”

Role of parents

Dr. Yamuna says parents are increasingly beginning to substitute active parenting with screen-based media such as television and computer. “Unless parents change their idea of leisure and entertainment for children, things may not get better,” she says.

Telling stories to younger children and engaging in dialogue with the older children become vital not only in terms of letting them know that parents have the time for them but also go a long way in developing children’s verbal communication skills and ability to negotiate or handle differences in opinion.

It is possible to make children behave gently, vouches Nithya Raja, a Montessori teacher working in a Corporation Primary School in Saidapet.

“We stress the importance of speaking softly and dealing with inanimate objects gently. Adults have to be role models.”

With such practices in place, even the more aggressive students started speaking and acting very politely over time, she adds.