Mehnaz Farooque

A school lays the foundation for a child – it guides them, helps them find their roots to hold on to, and discover wings to fly. But, in many cases, a school is also the same place that catalyse childhood traumas when there’s an absence of guidance. So, what does a child do when the very place that is supposed to mould him/her into a better human also becomes the place that frightens them the most? The child goes into a loop of ignorance, which ultimately makes him/her less confident. They start feeding their own demons because they feel neglected and ridiculed. While some of the lucky ones come out of this as winners, some of the others are left bruised and burdened under a world that is full of bullies.

Bullies can be anywhere – in the form of a classmate or even a teacher! There are different facets of bullying that most of the time remains unnoticed. In the form of favouritism, advantages, and comparison, children are often bogged down by subconscious bullying. And, not just in schools, many children are growing with scarred hearts because of their families who are either too busy or too oblivious to the child’s journey. This leads to the development of lonely children who later become misunderstood adults. In a recent encounter with a teenager, I came across the vicious duality of our surroundings that often impedes these kids in the name of academic results, popularity among friends, etc. I saw how he, being “mediocre in academics”, often got neglected and lost his self-confidence. I saw how not being conventional turned a normal college day into a nightmare for him.

Often times, the ‘average’ students are overlooked by teachers, as they are, instead, busy mending the careers of ‘promising’ students. These average children are often misinterpreted as ‘slow’ and ‘incompatible’. But, it’s not just about the grades; children who are shy and introvert are also mistreated by their fellows. And, all of this impacts a child’s perception towards the world, leading him/her to a life of unnecessary competition.

By definition, bullying is described as a force or threat, to abuse, aggressively dominate or intimidate someone. However, there are subtle layers of bullying that no one seems to have a problem with. For example, telling a girl to choose a ‘girl’s job’, forcing a teetotaller to get drunk, compelling a physically weak child to try hard at sports, these are all forms of bullying that lie at the heart of our society.

We are okay with cornering a classmate because he is too nerdy, we are okay with a girl being called a boy if she’s wearing the other gender’s clothes, we are okay with a teacher citing partiality to his favourite students, we are okay with calling someone ‘fatty’, ‘matchstick’, ‘fool’, etc... we are okay because we are too blind to see how wrong it is! This is mostly because we are not trained to find anything wrong in these cases as, apparently, bullying among friends, by teachers and families is often considered normal. This leads to children who are emotionally damaged. Schools and colleges have come up with various rules and regulations to prevent bullying in the premises, however, the sadder part is that a bully doesn’t stop with the school hours. They can hamper lives outside the classroom, even in the safest of places.

So, what can we do? Let’s start noticing for starters! As a society, it is our duty to understand the fragility of our children who are growing up in front of us. It is our duty to be aware of the different kinds of bullying that may not be essentially categorised as such. Otherwise, we would end up creating generations of less empathetic people who are burdened with our notions of societal standards. It’s, after all, high time that we identify wrong behaviour on our part.

([email protected])