Twenty-one beneficiaries from the National Community Foundation’s scholarship programme benefitted from a four-hour-long workshop last Friday (August 12) that addressed the worrisome act of bullying.
Held in the Saint Lucia Workers’ Credit Union Limited building on Bourbon Street, Castries, the workshop aimed to equip students with the knowledge they need to recognize, prevent and react to bullying.
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behaviour among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both children who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.
The workshop was facilitated by Janine Palm, of the Serieux Foundation, which promotes awareness in young people regarding identity, dreams and aspirations with education, social media safety, positive relationships, and leadership-mentoring programmes. The Serieux Foundation also provides sustainability for the community and parents.
Palm engaged the students in interactive group activities that allowed them to learn about each other, compliment each other, and presented scenarios in which they were expected to make positive choices.
“I understand that many young people don’t get an opportunity to hear any type of positive language, not even in schools or at home,” said Palm at the conclusion of the exercise. “So what better way to implement this than within a session targeting issues around what is actually going on in young people’s lives?”
According to Palm, bullying ties in to many social issues in a society. Therefore, she urges parents and teachers to recognize the signs of bullying to prevent its long-term damage in children.
“Your child being isolated and not going outside is one of the signs,” she said. “Your child not socializing or coming home saying they have no friends. Or when you drop them off or pick them up at school, you notice they’re often by themselves. Parents need to observe their children and listen effectively to them when they speak. Talk to your children and have an open relationship with them so they can be open and honest with you.”
She added: “Check your child’s social media because a lot of bullying happens online. If your child has WhatsApp or Instagram, get access to it. Go through their messages, check their pages, read the comments…You have to be observant. You have to be a FBI agent when you’ve got a child. This is the era of social media, so you can’t mess about.”
Her advice to children feeling bullied: “Tell a teacher. If your teacher does nothing about it, speak to the school’s guidance counselor, speak to your parents, and speak to someone in your community. Find a youth worker in your community or your social transformation officer. Get in contact with an organization that you feel can make a difference, including the national suicide helpline.”
Sasha Polius, Youth Worker in the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports, was also a co-facilitator at Friday’s session. She said the exercise was timely and well needed by the youngsters.
“I think we targeted the right age group because early intervention is always good,” said Polius. “Today was a good example of the practical use of early intervention. I think there was an impact made on the children by the activity.”
Polius said many people don’t really understand how detrimental bullying is, neither do they understand the magnitude of bullying that many children face.
“It’s so prevalent in all schools,” she said. “Some people think that it’s a small thing. Bullying is sometimes masked as joking around, so people who are being bullied often think it’s just joking around, and don’t take it seriously until they start feeling the consequences of being bullied.”
According to Polius, the most common forms of bullying children face are verbal abuse and cyber-bullying. In some cases of physical abuse, she said, children go home with injuries. As such, addressing the detrimental practice of bullying requires serious intervention.
“It’s something that we need to start tackling head-on and more aggressively by going to schools and trying to educate our young people on the importance of being kind to each other and what bullying can lead to,” Polius said.
SOURCE: National Community Foundation. Headline photo: Workshop facilitator, Janine Palm, far left, engages students during a group activity session.