KARACHI: The Directorate of Inspection and Registration of Private Institutions in Sindh organised a day-long workshop on harassment and bullying at privately managed educational institutions at the Sindh Boy Scouts Association’s provincial headquarters here on Thursday.

It was explained that bullying in educational institutions due to actual or perceived characteristics such as race, ethnicity, colour, disability, religion, etc, can violate others’ civil rights as well as laws.

It has been noted that there is a lack of tolerance, patience, compassion and empathy in students and youth, who also often use derogatory language during conversations.

Speaking on the occasion, provincial Adviser on Law and Environment and spokesperson for the Sindh government Barrister Murtaza Wahab said that bullying and aggression was now a trait in Pakistani society. “We watch aggressive people on television, we see people quarrelling on the roads and so politeness is slowly decaying in our society,” he said, while requesting the education department to emphasise proper education of civics in the curriculum.

Academician Shahpur Jamall shared an informative presentation showing that emotional and social development of students was also needed as much as teaching them regular subjects. “They need to be informed about drug addiction, they need to be taught stress management and they need to be told about how to deal with bullying,” he said, going on to explain that bullying was when a child was repeatedly targeted.

‘Many students lack tolerance, compassion, empathy and often use derogatory language’

“Usually it is the students of classes seven, eight and nine who go though bullying, especially psychological bullying. This is an age where children feel the need to belong but the bullying excludes or isolates them,” he said.

“For example, some students get together and start a WhatsApp group called ‘Hate Abdul Group’ in which besides adding all kids they have also added Abdul, who should really exit that group but he stays on it to hurt himself further. Maybe some of his friends have also been added and they don’t say anything in the group but they ought to. These bystanders also need to defend him,” he said.

He also explained that bullying sometimes was different for boys and girls. “Boys use size and strength to engage in bullying while girls are more subtle. They gossip, spread rumours and isolate the victim,” he said.

“School syllabus is a general thing and it is mandatory but there are other things also needed for the emotional growth of students,” said noted scholar, politician and former bureaucrat Mehtab Akbar Rashdi, during a panel discussion on the subject of harassment and bullying among students. “The student has no better friend than his or her teacher, who knows the student well. If teachers can’t read their students, then they are indifferent,” she pointed out.

Ms Rashdi also said that during her student days, parents used to have complete faith and trust in the ability of teachers, but today if a teacher said anything to a student, his or her mother would be confronting her the next day. “In my time, parents defended teachers and their actions before the children, today they encourage children. But it is also true that students will always remember a teacher, who has made a difference in their lives,” she said.

Dr Shazia Khan, a psychotherapist and expert on the subject, said that bullying was always there in educational institutions but it was a much bigger problem now. “There is a need to call out the behaviour as unacceptable or you will be helping to spread it,” she said, adding that it was basically all about showing one’s power over another.

Altaf Soomro, additional secretary education, government of Sindh, also said that rampant bullying in educational institutions would lead to harming education here. “We need to look at our options to stop this negative threat,” he said.

Earlier, Rafia Javed, registrar at the Directorate of Inspection and Registration of Private Institutions, said that teachers encountered cases of harassment on a daily basis. “We ourselves get confused sometimes about how to deal with bullying and harassment. There is also the psychological impact on students who are being bullied to be considered,” she said.

“We need to see how our norms, values and social ethics have changed and why such things happen. We also need our teachers to inform parents about these issues during parent-teacher meetings,” she said.

She said that they have earlier also organised such workshops on other issues faced in educational institutions here such as drug addiction.

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2020