- More crimes being committed than on the streets
Antonio McKoy, Chairman and Founder of the Montego Bay-based Le Antonio Foundation, says bullying has reached epidemic proportionS in the country, and is fuelling many of the violent criminal activitIES sweeping across the nation.
Mr. McKoy, whose foundation has launched the End Bullying Globally Campaign, says the situation is rampant in Western Jamaica, with extortion very prevalent in a Hanover high school, and rape of school girls by their peers at school across the region and the island.
In a most recent case of bullying and assault, a seven-year-old boy was held down by a group of his peers at the Clark’s Town Primary School in Trelawny and a stick thrust into his rectum.
It has been condemned by Education Minister Ruel Reid, who said a probe was forthcoming into the incident and that action would be taken following the results of the investigation.
In the meantime, McCoy says extortion is rampant, “We have encountered many situations at a school in Hanover that would rival the extortion rings operating in Spanish Town. There was one boy who was stealing from other students to ensure that he would have money to pay another boy, who was extorting money from him daily. This little one was in fear,” McKoy explained.
He further explained that in many schools, girls are being forced to engage in myriad sexual activities by their male peers.
“It is very serious. Some boys go around the school compounds saying they can have any girl they want, so they pull girls into bathrooms and other rooms and sexually assault or rape them, but the girls are not talking because of fear, as they have been threatened in most instances, by these boys and sometimes because of shame. So, they don’t tell their parents or other caregivers or any other adult.”
Mr. McKoy says some students are pretending to be sick and staying home because they do not want to go to school out of fear of being bullied.
LUNCH TIME IS FEAR TIME
“Some children fear what is going to happen to them at lunch times, they are beaten and their lunch taken away so lunch time which should be fun time, is now fear time,” McKoy explained. He says more crimes are seemingly being committed at school than on the streets.”
He says learning is seriously affected because children become withdrawn, depressed and fail to function at school.
Dr. Julian Walters, Child and Adult Psychiatrist at the Fairview Medical Centre, shared the sentiments expressed by McKoy, highlighting further that bullying stems from a power struggle, with these youngsters seeking to find their true identity.
“What we have is people trying to define who they are as they are going through a real struggle for their identity. How people are socialised, the culture, where people are categorised as victor or victim, in most instances, define people.”
She said according to a survey conducted by the Child Development Agency, 65 per cent of students are affected by bullying.
Part of the problem is that bullying is most times defined as the physical act, but the verbal expression can be just as damaging because, in many instances, young people, become depressed which leads to anxiety and panic attacks, and even suicidal thoughts.
Dr. Walters further confirmed that the cognitive process is compromised as children cannot focus, as they are anxious and fearful.