Bullying is a problem all around the world, and Egypt is no exception. Many countries have made efforts to stop bullying, but in Egypt, it’s not spoken about often enough. 30% of Egyptian schoolchildren are the victims of bullying violence, and 80% of these acts are carried out by other children.
One Woman’s Story
Nina Awad spoke out about her own experiences with bullying, and she debunks some common myths about the problem as well. It’s been ten years since Nina experienced bullying in school, but she received lasting scars that affect her to this day. She still gets extremely anxious when she meets people for the first time. According to Nina, “Whenever I start a new job or a new class, I get this urge to just turn around and walk away.”
It’s commonly believed in Egypt that bullying is confined to public schools and the lower social classes. However, Nina went to one of the top schools in Cairo. She wasn’t the only victim of bullying at the school. She says bullying was common in her school and everyone knew about it, including the teachers and officials. However, no one would talk about it. It goes without saying that you can’t begin to correct a problem if you can’t admit there is one.
Lujain Hussein had to undergo brain surgery after a group of bullies pushed her into a wall. Doctors believe that it triggered a brain hemorrhage due to a preexisting condition. When Lujain was brought to the hospital, doctors discovered that she had an arteriovenous malformation. This is a congenital defect in which the arteries and veins aren’t connected properly. Doctors had to put eleven year old Lujain in a coma and use special equipment to stop the bleeding because it was in an area very deep inside her brain. She made an incredible recovery, but she had some very serious lasting effects. She lost part of her vision, and she will most likely never be able to drive a car.
The family is Palestinian-Iranian, but it isn’t known for certain whether or not this was the reason why she was bullied. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this case is the lack of concern shown by the school and those involved in the incident. Even some of the doctors were reluctant to implicate the bullying incident to her brain hemorrhage, even though they received a medical report from one doctor that says the incident caused her brain hemorrhage. The school nor the parents of those involved in the incident never bothered to call and check on Lujain. Lujain’s mother switched schools. She says at first her daughter didn’t want to change schools, but that she is much happier now. She says she is still sometimes scared of other children, however.
The incident helped raise bullying awareness. According to her brother, “After what happened to my sister, people are like, what is happening with my children? They want to know what’s happening at school.” Samineh Shaheem is also using Lujain’s story to raise awareness about bullying. She is a psychological consultant, and she goes to schools as a part of an anti-bullying campaign that she started.
She believes that the seriousness of Lujain’s case has prompted more people to be aware of the realities of bullying. She says that seeing a little girl in the hospital makes it much more personal for people. There seems to be more awareness in schools, and parents ask their children if anyone is bothering them at school.
Cyber bullying in Egypt
Cyber bullying is also a problem in Egypt. A fifteen year old boy named Mohamed found a Facebook page that had a picture of him wearing a wig and claiming that he was gay. He was so embarrassed that he refused to leave the house for two months. Unfortunately, many times this type of cyber bullying ends in suicide instead of just temporary embarrassment. One study shows that 8% of those who are cyber bullied have considered suicide. This doesn’t take into account those who follow through with it. Many others have had to change schools before they regained some semblance of normalcy.
Howayda Sharabash is a psychologist and a school counselor. She says that what makes cyber bullying so harmful is the fact that it is premeditated and the victims can read it over and over again, which is very harmful to them. The victims of cyber bullying don’t know how their classmates will react, which can lead them to imagine things are much worse than they actually are.
Ghada Khalifa is the citizenship and community manager for Microsoft Egypt. Khalifa speaks to the Ministry of Education, students, parents, and teachers. She creates workshops and presentations with the help of student volunteers to help raise awareness about cyber bullying. Interestingly, she says that schools and students are receptive to information about cyber bullying, but many parents are not.
This lack of awareness by adults is certainly contributing to the problem of cyber bullying. Two out of ten middle school children have had their parents talk to them about cyber bullying. The number is only half that for high school students, with one in ten saying their parents have talked to them about cyber bullying.