Together against bullying in school

by Eric Falt, Director, UNESCO New Delhi and Prof Hrushikesh Senapaty, Director NCERT   

To read the published version in the Education Times click here

Bullying is the most common form of school violence which requires urgent attention. It not only violates a child’s right to education, but also impacts their health and well-being and academics negatively. According to the UNESCO report, 'Behind the numbers: Ending school violence and bullying', one in every three students has been bullied by their peers in school at least once in the last month, and a similar proportion are affected by physical violence. 

Violence and bullying, including cyberbullying leave a mark on a student’s life and has a drastic effect on the child’s mindset, often resulting in anxiety, depression, uncontrollable anger, shame and low self-esteem. Due to social stigma, often learners hide instances of bullying from their teachers and parents. Appropriate intervention or a failure to provide timely support to students can lead to lack of concentration, falling grades, disruptive behaviours, absenteeism or dropping out-of-school completely.  
Post COVID-19 lockdown education departments made efforts to ensure continuity of learning through various digital platforms, which has amplified the risk of cyberbullying. In order to address this, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and UNESCO New Delhi published an information booklet titled 'Safe online learning in the times of COVID-19' in various Indian languages, to raise awareness on staying safe online. 

The education sector, including teachers play an important role to promote mutual respect, dignity and consent among students. They make an essential contribution to the emotional and cognitive development of children.  There is an emerging need to take concrete steps in ensuring that children are provided safe learning environments, which enables them to share experiences and seek help when needed. 

When the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September 2015, it committed to strive for a world guided by human rights, a world that is just, equitable and inclusive, and a world that is free from fear and violence. In order to ensure safe and inclusive learning environments, UNESCO advocates for a comprehensive school health approach that encompasses policy and systems, skills-based health education, safe learning environments and linked to health services. It is imperative for the education sector to implement measures for preventing violence and bullying. 

Safety and security of students is a priority for the Government of India. Recently, the Ministry of Education in collaboration with Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched the School Health Programme under the aegis of Ayushman Bharat. The School Health curriculum developed by NCERT in collaboration with partners includes a dedicated module on “Safety and Security Against Violence and Injuries” which aims to enhance knowledge and skills of learners to keep oneself safe from violence and injuries. The Ministry of Education has sent detailed guidelines to State School Education Departments for setting up Institutional mechanisms for making schools free from bullying.  

Preventing and eliminating violence and bullying in schools requires a variety of actions engaging all stakeholders.
We urge government departments, schools, parents, social workers, counsellors, doctors, community leaders and institutions to work hand-in-hand with students and administrators to ensure a secure and vibrant learning environment in schools.