Bullying is a predominant form of child abuse, whether in the form of verbal or non-verbal aggression. Many middle and high school students in the Kingdom are being teased frequently or even daily.
Shaheen Mirza, a teacher at a private school for boys, said, “During the lunch break, I saw a group of young boys hitting another boy and throwing things at him.” When she reported the incident to the school authorities, they didn’t know how to deal with it and left the group of boys with just a warning. “The trauma caused by bullying could make the victim even more vulnerable to other forms of abuse,” she said. The issue of bullying among children in Saudi Arabia has not been raised much. In a survey recently done by Arab News, about 20 percent of students reported experiencing verbal threats. Education authorities, on the other hand, dismiss bullying as a rather insignificant phenomenon, making the presence of bullying less obvious.
Sohail Khan, an Indian expatriate, said his 10-year-old boy used to get harassed and beaten at school by his classmate every day, which made him emotionally sick and affected his studies. This persisting bully made him afraid to go to school. He said schools should intensify monitoring and supervision of children to avoid attacking each other. “The issue of safety should be a vital part of every school’s policy, and programs should be held to help promote children’s safety,” said Khan. “It is important for teachers and administrators to come together and eradicate such behavior,” he added.
The kind of mistreatment children are exposed to ranges from physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse. The majority of parents believe schools are responsible to tackle such matters or incidents, whereas teachers blame parents for some of the actions of their children.
“Sometimes, children learn violent behavior from home, either from their elder siblings or from watching action films on television,” said Abeer Syed, a school principal. Kids then try to practice what they see by attacking other pupils. She said it is the duty of parents to monitor the behavior of their children at home, and screen what they are watching on television.
The severity and frequency of bullying in the Kingdom is arguably far less when compared to many other countries in the world.
“Bullying behavior is prevalent throughout the world, and child abuse cuts across socioeconomic, racial or ethnic, and cultural lines. It is important to educate children about exploitation to empower them,” said Hania Al-Saud, a social researcher.
It is crucial to emphasize on the subtle forms of bullying, said Dr. Ahmed Ghamdi, a psychiatrist. “The physical kinds of bullying and violence come to the surface more often. Such children would fear reporting verbal or physical bullying by other students to parents or teachers. But what is equally worrying and damaging are the subtle forms of bullying,” he said. Rejection, non-verbal and verbal put-downs, ignoring someone, sniggering, and racial bullying are some forms. He said it becomes more dangerous when parents or teachers are unaware of a child being bullied. “The harrowing effects of bullying among children can last a long time and become a permanent disability. The schools, which implicitly condone it, breed it. They need to recognize the problem and be committed to solving it,” Ghamdi said.
A victim of school bullying, Nada Wafey, said comments passed by her bullies keep nagging her. “It is very hard for me to get over the nasty comments they passed at me. I am very conscious about myself and find it very difficult to make friends,” said Nada.
Bullying is present in every school, but has not been brought under the limelight until now. Parents should watch for refusal to attend school, sudden academic failure, loss of books and other property, unexplained bruises, and difficulties in sleeping or eating.