Concerned about a lack of action to tackle the alarming increase in bullying, a counselling agency is pleading with authorities to implement a very “systematic” response in schools.
Chief Executive Officer of Supreme Counselling for Personal Development, Shawn Clarke on Wednesday told reporters that while the Olweus Bullying Prevention Programme would be a costly initiative, it’s implementation could save the justice system millions of dollars in the long run and prevent the “devastation” of young lives.
Recalling four recent incidents that included cyber bullying, abuse of the elderly, and physical bullying that cost the life of a 10-year-old, Clarke declared that the time to act was overdue.
“The system is already in place, but it is just for us now to get together as Supreme Counselling for Personal Development with the Ministry of Education Technological and Vocational Training, the Ministry of Youth and Community Empowerment to buckle down on this thing called bullying, and get a grip of this thing called bullying, and we have statistics to prove that bullying is having a serious impact on our society,” Clarke said.
The Olweus programme that he has suggested is a four-stage approach that requires schools to conduct a survey to provide insight into the prevalence of bullying at the particular school. This is followed by the creation of a bullying coordinating committee that will oversee the programme under guidance from his agency. All staff on the compound, including teachers, canteen workers, and other ancillary staff receive training, after which sessions are conducted among the general student body.
“It is not a peer mediation programme, so you do not take the person exhibiting bullying behaviours…and ask them to just shake hands. We do the training to ensure that everyone on the school compound is trained and then we provide consultancy programmes,” Clarke added.
The CEO told reporters that the Olweus programme had been piloted at three secondary schools in 2014, as well as at the Wesley Hall Primary School. Over the last two years, Clarke has implemented it at six schools in neighbouring Antigua. However, he warned that the programme had only been effective in circumstances where staff members wholeheartedly supported it.
Pointing to statistics from the world renowned Olweus programme, he suggested that nipping the problem of bullying in the bud could reduce the number of criminals in society in the future.
“In the end, it could be a relatively costly exercise, but it would work out to be less expensive if you invest the money now than if you have to invest it on more punitive measures. It is a wise investment, not only looking at it in dollars and cents, but in terms of the psychological wellbeing and mental health of our society that you cannot put a dollars and cents value [on].
“Research in the Olweus Bullying Prevention Programme suggests that young people who are involved in bullying at a young age have three or more criminal convictions by the age of 21.
“It would therefore be interesting for us to visit Her Majesty’s Prison and do some research to find out how many persons incarcerated for violent crimes were childhood bullies. The evidence is also there to substantiate that there is a serious correlation between childhood bullying and domestic violence,” Clarke suggested. ([email protected])