Bullying in Ecuador

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Bullying in Ecuador is a serious problem, and there is a new awareness that is trying to address the issue. A UNICEF program is raising bulling awareness with a new campaign called “Ahora Que Lo Ves,” which is “now you see it” in English.

The program has been adopted by 70 or so nations, and its emphasis is on the schools. The program tries to raise awareness, and to empower those that would be victims so that they will not be victims. Bullying is any type of aggressive behavior that is done to intimidate, scare or harm another person. Often people are singled out to be victims because they appear different, seem anxious or weak, or have some other problem that can be singled out. Often schools focus on punishing the bully, and react to situations as they arise. This program is more aimed at the person who would be a victim and teaches them to better be able to handle harassment. The program also encourages others to report bullying when they see it. Having more bullying information is one of the answers to how to handle bullying, officials believe.

According to a UNICEF report in 2015, three of five children are victims of bullying in Ecuador have been bullied in some way. Bullying in Ecuador, or anywhere else, is verbal, physical or virtual. Virtual bullying is internet bullying, or Facebook bullying, and is called cyberbullying which is a new and growing problem around the world. Facts about cyberbullying are still being revealed and are part of bullying statistics.

UNICEF representatives say parents may not realize there is a real problem, as many think bullying is normal and just a part of growing up. Most  bullying is middle school bullying, and it continues as high school bullying.

Popular singer Juan Fernando Velasco spoke when the program was announced late last year, and has taken an active role in promoting this anti bullying campaign in Quito. “Violence cannot be legitimated. We can put a stop in all areas, at school, at home, in the neighborhood, but we have to empower ourselves,” he said.

The Ecuador Times newspaper reported similar results in 2014, from a 2011 bullying statistics national survey of childhood and adolescence. The study said 64 percent of children between the ages of eight and 17 have witnessed bullying or fights among classmates. The survey also said 57 percent admitted to having destroyed or stolen property from other students. The report added that 69 percent said they had been bullied in some way in the past month.

Most of the bullying in Ecuador is verbal, this study showed, as 74 percent of the bullying was of that nature. Being different was the major reason people were bullied, at 63 percent. This could include a deformity, or being different as in being gay or lesbian, or just not wearing the “right” kind of clothing.

While bullying was once thought of as just a normal part of growing up, researchers are now finding that there are serious consequences to this problem. A study by the United Nations on Latin America and its affects on school bullying, showed there is a correlation between bullying and lessened ability to learn. The study was conducted in 2011, and surveyed 91,000 students in 16 South American nations. The study surveyed 5,427 sixth graders in Ecuador from 182 schools around the country. The surveys were taken as part of standardized testing and measured the impact of bulling on reading and math learning.

The study showed similar results to other studies as to how many students had felt bullied. The study showed Ecuador to be higher than average in most cases. There were 56 percent of the students who said they had been bullied in some way, and the study average was 48 percent. The study showed 28 percent said they had been verbally bullied and 21 percent said they had been physically bulled, both of which were also above the regional average. This study also considered the role of seeing bullying, or disruptions in the classroom. In Ecuador 66 percent said they had witnessed bullying, which was four points above average.

There were large differences in the effect bullying had on learning in different countries. In Ecuador, there was virtually no change in math test scores among students who had reported bullying, while the regional average was a nine percent drop. Ecuador students who had been bullied saw their reading test scores fall by nine percent, which was close to the regional average. Interestingly though, students in Ecuador were more impacted by witnessing bullying, and bullying related disruptions. Students who had seen bullying or classroom disruptions saw math scores fall by 12 percent and reading scores fall by nearly eight percent, both of which were above the Latin America average.

In addition to harming school performance, there are other serious consequences of bullying. When a teenager commits suicide it gets a lot of attention, and Ecuador educators say that half of those suicides are caused by cyberbullying or face to face bulling that students encounter.

Why people bully is a question that has also been asked a lot. There are many ways to define it, but Ecuador teachers say often students have problems at home, and they can feel better if they make others feel worse. Some children also see it as fun, feeling good when they see others suffering or seeing the fear they create.
In 2013 Ecuador passed a law called the Education Communication and Code for Children and Adolescents that was aimed at stopping bullying in the schools. The law tries to get schools, parents, and society in general involved as they believe everyone has to be involved to stop the problem.

Ximena Ponce, head of the legislative education commission, said it is very hard to fight violence when depending only on governmental institutions. “It is a cultural issue of children who are trained in homes, and in groups. That is where we must have impact,” he said.

He added the best policy is to strengthen the culture to have high standards and to affirm equal rights daily for all people.

Bullying tends to continue into adulthood if it is not addressed in childhood. Bullies stay bullies, and victims remain victims. In some cases those that once were victims become bullies when they get the opportunity. There is a lot of workplace bullying as well as office bullying.

Sylvana Giachero is a Uruguayan activist and psychologist who conducts seminars throughout South America. She also speaks to adult bullying, and says often it is done to protect job security.

She sometimes people feel insecure and get others to join in and the group bullies a victim in the office.

Bullying remains a problem in Ecuador. There are attempts to raise awareness, which is seen as one of the best ways of how to deal with bullying, and how to stop it.

Sociologist Carolina Bascuñán is in favor of laws against bullying and cyberbullying laws, for instance, but she says that is not enough. She said most laws seek to control the problem, or are more reactionary than proactive.

“You not only have to work with the children, but with the entire educational community and the family, because it is the entire system that excuses and encourages the violence, and that must be in charge of preventing and eradicating it,” she said.   Focusing on how to prevent bullying is her focus.

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