RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health has recently initiated a campaign aimed at tackling bullying in schools and improving the psychological and educational well-being of students in the country.
The awareness campaign will introduce students to the different forms of bullying and their impact, with the aim of decreasing incidents of bullying and fostering a positive school environment.
“Having an initiative that informs students from a young age about bullying is essential, particularly the different forms of bullying, as bullying does not necessarily mean kicking, pushing, or damaging someone’s belongings,” said Nada Al-Yhaya, an English teacher based in Dhahran.
She added: “Most of the time, bullying is verbal, and it can be much more destructive than physical bullying. As a class teacher, most of the cases I deal with are verbal, and unfortunately, they are increasing.”
According to a study conducted by the National Commission for Childhood in the Kingdom, 57 percent of boys and 43 percent of girls suffer from bullying in schools.
With higher rates of bullying among children in schools, it can be difficult to know if a child is being bullied unless they come forward about it or display visible bruises or injuries.
“There are silent signs to spot that indicate if a child is being bullied, and this includes a decline in their academic level or feeling anxious when receiving a text message or an email, the desire to stop using the computer, avoiding social situations, or withdrawing from family or friend gatherings,” said Ghanem Saad Al-Ghanem, a sociology consultant at King Fahad Medical City.
He added: “Signs of depression, changes in mood or behavior, and lack of sleep or loss of appetite are other silent signs of being bullied among children.”
Similarly to identifying signs of being bullied, understanding the underlying reasons why children become bullies can also be challenging. These may include, but are not limited to, “jealousy, feeling frustrated, being a victim of bullying themselves, the urge to control others, or an attempt to cover up their own weaknesses,” said Al-Ghanem.
The campaign launched by the Ministry of Health aims to foster open discussions with students regarding the various forms and effects of bullying, and, most importantly, educate them on how to respond to bullying situations.
The campaign also hopes to inform parents and families about the dangers of bullying, provide them with guidance on how to respond when their child or someone they know is being bullied and encourage them to monitor their children.
“When children are heard, respected, and understood by their parents, they will feel comfortable reporting if they are being bullied,” said Al-Ghanem.
The ministry has encouraged students who are being bullied to ignore and stay away from bullies and to communicate with teachers, parents, or any other person they trust.
It emphasized the importance of involving teachers and school principals in creating a united team with students and parents to reduce bullying and reminded students that bullying is unacceptable behavior that carries consequences.