In Bullying Around the World

Bullying in Cuba

Bullying in Cuba is interesting because bullying statistic vary widely, depending on the source, and there is a lot of conflicting information coming out of this small island nation. With recently normalized relations between the United States and Cuba, the political situation has changed, and more information is available.  Activists and child advocates in the country say it is just not discussed, but say it is a serous problem. There are no laws against it in Cuba, though there seem to be bullying cases.

Bullying has gotten a lot more attention around the world lately, and cyberbullying is also getting more attention, which is using social media such as Facebook bullying to harass people. To define Bullying generally speaking, is verbal harassment or insults, physical intimidation, or otherwise belittling someone else. It is not considered bullying if it happens just once or twice however. It has to go on for an extended period of time. There are also generally stages to bullying and these are the characteristics.


Often it starts with verbal abuse such as taunting or making fun of someone, and then exclusion, ignoring and rejecting occurs. After that there begins aggression against the person, such as stealing or damaging property. Finally, the last state is physical violence. It need not progress to all of these stages to be harmful though. Middle school bullying is the most common type of bullying. There is some high school bullying as well, as it often continues into adulthood.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization did a major study of 16 Latin American nations in 2011 to get real bullying information and perhaps learn how to handle bullying. It determined bullying is a major problem in the region, and that it had a significant negative impact on student learning in reading and math. It also showed students who were not victims, but were in classes where there were often disruptions and violence, performed worse than in schools where this was not the case.

For the study a total of 91,223 sixth graders from 2,969 schools in 16 nations were interviewed to get bullying statistics. A total of 5,910 Cuban students in 206 different schools took part. According to the statistics on bullying, Cuba was much lower than any other Latin American country. Overall, 51 percent of Latin American students said they had been harassed in some way in the previous month, but only 13 percent of the Cuban students said they had been.

Cuban Statistics

Only seven percent of Cuban students said they had been verbally bullied, and the Latin American average is 27 percent. Only 4.3 percent of Cuban children said they had been physically bullied, and the Latin American average is 16.5 percent. Sibling bullying was not addressed, but a history of bullying across the region was established.

Some researchers are now also showing that witnessing bullying also has a negative effect on student learning. Again, Cuban kids were well below the Latin American Average according to this study. When asked if they had witnessed any type of bullying, only 16 percent said they had, and the average for the region is 62 percent.

The study did show that when it does happen to Cuban students, it has an big impact. According to the study, students from Cuba who were bullying victims did 16 percent worse in math and almost eight percent worse in reading. In some countries this made little difference. In the Dominican Republic, for instance, it seemed to not affect students as much.

Bullying is getting more attention around the world, and in Latin America. In 2012 Chile adopted a formal policy in its schools to combat bullying, which is what many people advocate. In 2013 Paraguay actually made it illegal, and even underage children can get in trouble – often sentenced to community service and ordered to have counseling. But so far in Cuba, not much is being done in the schools or at the legal level.

Internet use in Cuba

Cyberbullying is also getting more attention as one of the types of bullying in Cuba. This is when people use social media like Facebook to bully people which is internet bullying. This has led to teen suicides in some countries, and that has raised concern in different parts of the world. The Internet, and social media, have been slow to come to Cuba, but in 2015 the number of teenagers using the internet and social media more than doubled. The growth is expected to continue and more facts about cyberbullying are needed.


Some activists are writing that there is a big problem with bullying in Cuba, but they say it is not being talked about openly. The Cuban news website AmericaTeve wrote, in a story called “epidemic without therapy” said “here is no plan against this evil, primarily due to lack of perception of reality and no special training for teachers.” She said there are no resources for local people and no plan to stop bullying in Cuba.

The same article said when students do complain about bullying to a teacher, they are often ignored, and then bullied worse after school or in the playground by other students. It noted that The United Nations Children’s Fund felt Cuba’s statistics were under reported.

It says there is no official policy for dealing with bullying, but it did note that there used to be rules against bullying in the schools. These have apparently been forgotten over the years. Also in Cuba, there is a lot of bullying of homosexuals and transgendered people, the article said.

Bully Motivation

Just as in other countries, most bullying occurs in the middle school years, between the ages of 11-14. Often bullies have been bullied themselves. There has been a lot of studies done as to why people bully others. The consensus now is that they are looking for approval from their peers by making others look bad. Victims usually are stressed already, appear weak or unsure of themselves, and that make them easy targets. The bullying makes them feel worse and they may fall into depression, and some have indeed killed themselves. The effects of bullying can be devastating so people need to know the bullying signs.

Another article written by activist Yoani Sanchez was published several times in 2014, and picked up by Huffington Post. In the article she had several examples of bullying in Cuba, and said it touches rich and poor alike, which mirrors what most studies have shown. She said people have killed to take a pair of shoes from another kid, which is an extreme, but often stealing is one way of bullying people.

The said the issue is barely spoken of in public or in the media, but she said it affects thousands of children around the nation each year. She also said teachers are indifferent and often side with the bully – who they call the tough boys and girls.

“The result is an institutional validation of a structure of bravado and abuse,” she wrote.
She also decried the fact that there is no phone number for a victim to call, and there is no one to report it to. There is no ministry of education program to help either. She said parents often respond to their children by just telling them to fight back and hit their assailant harder than they were hit. Teachers are also reluctant to get involved when that is the attitude of parents, she wrote. There are also no cyberbullying laws in Cuba.

There was however, a UNESCO program in Havanna in late 2015 addressing homophobia in the schools. Part of this involved working on the problem of bullying in general. Speakers also denounced the “poor visibility” the issue of bullying has, and bullying against homosexuals too, in both school policies and in the scientific research in Cuba. University teachers would like to impose a nobullying policy.
Teachers from about 40 schools participated, and they hope to take recommendations to other schools to limit bullying and discrimination. They offer the traditional definition of the problem and explain what is a bully, what causes bullying and how to stop a bully. The speakers there said people are usually harassed or bullied about their physical appearance or their mannerisms. This has a lot of negative effects, such as poor school performance and a lack of desire to go to school.

Another article from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, said cross dressers and transgendered adults are often harassed and bullied in public, to the point that they are afraid to go out by themselves. It quotes several of them saying they feel bullied as it tells their stories.


When left unchecked, bullies often continue their behavior into adulthood, and victims often continue being victims into adulthood as well. The essentials of bullying are the same regardless of age, but the motivations appear to be somewhat different. Usually among children it is done to establish social standing and approval among their peers. Adults may do office bullying or workplace bullying for the same reason, but there is even more of a power dynamic involved. At work is often where the long term effects show up

For adults it can be in order to preserve one’s job, or to fend off people who might be able to replace them or who might threaten their job security. Often bullying is about power. Victims are often perceived as weak, and may perceive themselves that way too.

Much has been written about solutions, and helping the victim to shed the victim attitude and learn how to handle the bully, seems to be the best way people have found. Bullies tend to not try to bully people who refuse to be bullied. That is easier said than done however but the long term effects are clear. Bulling awareness then is important, and that is one way to prevent bullying, along with learning how to deal with a bully. Bullying facts, knowing the signs of primary bullying, are the beginning, experts say.

In Cuba, even admitting there is a problem would seem to be a good start. There are some activists speaking out and some awareness starting to be raised.

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