Schools meant to be nurturing havens for knowledge and personal growth are grappling with a distressing epidemic of bullying, physical assault, and violence.
It appears to have taken centre stage on campuses across the country.
Bullying is a form of aggressive behaviour in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort.
Thousands of students face insults, demeaning names, and demoralization, leaving lasting scars on their well-being. Even teachers have fallen victim to these attacks.
The consequences of bullying are far-reaching, with UNESCO reporting in 2019 that it is a leading cause of suicide and mental health challenges among students.
Government officials, including the Minister for Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, have condemned such behaviour unequivocally.
The Ghana Education Service (GES) has also issued warnings of sanctions for students involved in bullying.
However, despite these measures, recent incidents have exposed the deep-rooted nature of the issue.
One particularly shocking case occurred at Adisadel College in July 2023 as a stark reminder that bullying is not an isolated problem but a widespread issue that demands immediate attention.
Several other incidents have marred the educational landscape in Ghana over the years.
The Ghana Report, in this article, seeks to shed light on some bullying incidents in various institutions and what measures can be put in place to curb this menace.
Adisadel College Incident
The Adisadel College case has sparked widespread concerns and reignited conversations about bullying.
In July 2023, an Adisadel College student was captured on tape assaulting his colleague.
In the disturbing 30 seconds video, a student is seen choking another student from behind.
The tall student then forcefully slams the topless boy’s head onto the edge of a metal bunk bed, prompting voices off-camera urging the predator to let go due to the evident harm caused.
When left off the hook, the boy is seen with severe swelling on his face.
He has since been granted bail by the Cape Coast District Court.
He is expected to reappear before the Juvenile Court on Wednesday, August 2.
Sandema Senior High School
In December 2015, 2019, students who were caught reportedly bullying a first-year student were suspended from the Sandema Senior High School in the Builsa North District of the Upper East Region.
The Builsa North District Director of Education, Clement Abakisi, said nine out of the 19 students were suspended for maltreating the first-year student, while six were asked to go on internal suspension and the remaining four asked to weed the school compound.
The victim, who collapsed due to the bullying, was admitted to the Sandema Government Hospital.
Wa Technical Institute
In July 2023, two students of Wa Technical Institute were arrested for allegedly assaulting a housemaster and another student.
One of them, 19-year-old Yussif Mudasshir, is said to have been reproached by the housemaster, Isreal Musah Frinko, for dressing improperly.
What started as a seemingly simple request to change attire quickly escalated into a harrowing altercation, leaving the housemaster injured and bleeding.
In his account, Frinko explained how the situation unravelled, leading to an unforeseen act of violence.
The aftermath of the assault prompted immediate action, with the student being referred to the master in charge of discipline.
It was not an isolated incident, as a second student, allegedly a close friend and accomplice of Yussif Mudasshir, was also involved and reported to have resisted arrest, causing harm to another student with a pair of scissors.
Nungua Kroma Two JHS
In March 2021, a final-year student of the Nungua Kroma Two JHS was said to have assaulted a teacher who punished him for failing to do his homework.
He and 15 others reportedly stormed the school premises in a Sprinter bus, attacked the teacher and left him with wounds to his face.
They were arraigned before the Accra Juvenile Court and fined GH₵ 1,800 each.
Consequences of bullying
A UNESCO report suggests that frequently bullied children are nearly three times more likely to feel like an outsider at school and likely to miss school.
Also, bullied children have worse educational outcomes than children who do not. They score lower in mathematics and reading tests, and the more often they are bullied, the worse their score.
Key findings also reveal that children who are frequently bullied are also more likely to leave formal education after finishing secondary school compared with children who are not frequently bullied.
Overall, bullying can have a significant impact on children’s mental health, quality of life, and risk behaviours.
What is the Way Forward?
The findings and conclusion of this report reinforce the recommendations of the 2016 and 2018 reports of the UN Secretary-General to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on Protecting Children from Bullying.
These include the need to:
- Ensure that legislation is in place to safeguard the rights of children and to underpin policies to prevent and respond to school violence and bullying
- Improve the availability of accurate, reliable, and disaggregated data and implement evidence-based initiatives that are informed by sound research
- Train and support teachers to prevent and respond to school violence and bullying
- Promote whole-school approaches that engage the wider community, including students, teachers, other school staff, parents, and local authorities
- Provide information and support to children to enable them to speak up and seek support
- Promote the meaningful participation of children in efforts to prevent and respond to school violence and bullying
- Give priority to children who are especially vulnerable, as a result of race, ethnicity, disability, gender, or sexual orientation
- Establish child-friendly and gender-sensitive reporting, complaint, and counseling mechanisms, and restorative approaches.