Bullying in schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions is a systemic problem everywhere. About school bullying, the National Center for Educational Statistics, which is under the United States' education department, in a report in 2016 said that one in five students of that country was bullied. In that report bullying was defined as an aggressive behaviour characterized by 'power imbalance and the intent to cause harm,'. In other words, the potential bully targets the student who in the former's eye is vulnerable. And it is this feeling of powerlessness of the victim student before the bully that leads to the latter's long-lasting psychological, emotional and physical problems. In the USA and other advanced countries, teachers look after the problem of bullying and they have a systematic approach to the issue and the ways to resolve it. And it is an essential part of the teachers' duty in the American schools to recognise the warning signs of bullying in a student-if he/she is a bully in the making or has the vulnerability of being bullied. As a result, the students are continuously under the teachers' watch enabling the latter to counsel the school children. With their intimate knowledge of the psychological pattern of every school student under their care, the teachers are better able to prevent acts of bullying from taking place or can handle it properly if it happens.
However, our school teachers in most cases lack the necessary skill to grapple with the problem of bullying among their students. As a result, whenever any incident of bullying happens in our schools, teachers, in the absence of any systematic approach to deal with the problem, take an ad hoc approach to resolve then. A Unicef study conducted in 2019 found that one in every four students in Bangladesh is subjected to bullying by her/his peers. In comparison to American schools as mentioned earlier, the percentage of bullying in Bangladeshi schools is 5.0 percentage points higher. Clearly, the school authorities are not able to handle the issue on their own. Had our school teachers adopted a modern approach as is practised in the advanced countries to know their students closely and the school administrations put the required internal mechanism in place to address it, the higher educational institutions would get a better supply of disciplined students every year.
In the institutions of higher learning, on the other hand, the phenomenon of bullying takes a new turn because there the students are no more children but grown-up adults. When adults engage in bullying, it may turn violent and as a result become a law and order issue. Recently, bullying, in the name of ragging, is taking place in the different educational institutions, especially in colleges and universities. In the earlier times, rag day would be observed by students at the end of their academic life in a college or university. On that day, they would have fun by singing and dancing, spraying coloured water onto one another and eat out in groups or do other things to make their last day in that educational institution memorable. Then the rag day activities also included charitable work like collecting used clothes, money, etc for the poor.
But of late, bullying has replaced rag-day fun. Some students usually become violent and go on a rampage on the campus. They hold DJ parties, engage in all forms of obscenity, bully other students and do things unbecoming of a university student. The victims of bullying are often roughed up, forced to pay toll or are humiliated in different ways. Such rowdy behaviour has begun to infect otherwise normal students and the savage culture of rag day has witnessed an alarming rise in recent days in different educational institutions across the country. And it is against this backdrop that on April 17, 2022, the High Court ordered the authorities concerned to stop DJ party, illegal and cruel activities and bullying in the name of 'rag day' at all educational institutions.
In this connection, the education ministry is learnt to be working on a draft to form a bullying prevention committee at different educational institutions including public and private secondary-level schools, colleges, universities and madrasas. The said anti-bullying committee, soon to be finalised, will consider bullying as a criminal act and punishable by law. Its aim, it is said, will be to create an educational environment on the campus that is free of bullying and where students will feel safe to pursue their educational activities. The education ministry's move is no doubt well-meaning. But better it would be to remove the causes that turn students, who should otherwise seek knowledge, into criminals. Teachers also cannot wash their hands of the responsibility in the matter. The government has the most important role to play by ensuring that students may not become a pawn in the game of power politics. The educational institutions should be a place where the foundation of a nation is built. But if those become a place where criminals have the final word, then it is bad news for a nation.