Ethiopia is a large country in East Africa with a population of about 50,000,000 people with half below the age of fifteen. The country is made of a many ethnic groups and languages. Today, Ethiopia has been blessed with an economic boom that is seeing a steady rise of the middle class. Unfortunately, this economic prosperity is limited to Addis Ababa and some surrounding areas. In rural Ethiopia, poverty is a daily struggle and one of the biggest factors that contributes to bullying in Ethiopia alongside gender and ethnic differences.
In 1996, An Ethiopian study was conducted interviewing junior secondary and senior secondary schools in Addis Ababa. Of the students interviewed at the eight schools, 240 students reported being victims of violence from their peers. According to the study, the types of bullying consisted of taking things from other students, such as book bags, hitting, kicking, and rape. Many of the headmasters and teachers felt that violent bullying directly affected the learning process and long term psychological well-being of students.
According to the study, the causes of bullying in Ethiopia include:
- broken families
- media violence
- large classrooms that are unmanageable for teachers
- unclear school rules
To handle bullying, the study encourages the following measures to be taken:
- Schools need to create and enforce clear school rules about proper conduct.
- Schools, along with parents, need to create and implement anti-bullying campaigns.
- Teachers need to communicate more with students in positive ways.
- The entire community needs to address the issue of bullying, including youth groups and churches.
Bullying in Ethiopia also has a lot to do with gender. While it is important to note that Addis Ababa is a cosmopolitan city that has adopted western attitudes toward women and equality, the same is not the case for the rural areas and the aforementioned study of bullying does not represent rural areas outside of the capital. Very few girls go to school in the rural areas, and the ones who do risk bullying and sexual advances from the male students.
There is also the illegal, but all to common practice of bride abduction that has been part of Ethiopia’s culture for centuries, that girls risk by walking to and from school. The way bride abduction works is essentially kidnapping and bullying a girl into marriage. One or more men will use physical and sexual violence until she agrees to marry one of the men. Her parents are also bullied into the arrangement since their daughter is no longer a virgin. They believe no one else will marry her and in their poverty, they need to have a husband to care for their daughter. It is a vicious cycle of poverty and lack of education that allows this particular type of bullying to continue. Ethiopia is desperately trying to shake the image of a starving nation that dominated the headlines during the 1980’s famines but the same thing is happening again and daughters oftentimes need to be married for survival.
In an article by The Washington Post, ‘Difret’ tells a story of bridal abduction in Ethiopia, we learn about a film where a 14-year-old girl from a small village in Ethiopia who was abducted by a group of men on her way home from school and raped by the man who intended to marry her. Fortunately she is able to escape after killing her assailant. The film chronicles her story unfolding in the courtroom and makes the country face this bullying steeped in tradition.
Bullying in Ethopia is also caused by ethnic resentment. There are three main ethnic groups in Ethiopia: The Amhara, The Oromo, and Tigray. Throughout history there has been fighting between these three ethnic groups. At different times in history, one group ruled over the other and with corruption often rampant within the government, resentment had been ingrained within the different groups. Even today we see civil unrest in Ethiopia with the Oromo people staging mass protests against the ruling Tigrays. Because of these divisions, bullying takes place among students of different ethnic backgrounds.
Throughout the country, overcrowded classrooms and underpaid teachers are also a reason for bullying to take place at school. Large classrooms are difficult to manage and the ratios of boys to girls makes it even more difficult to determine if bullying is taking place in the classroom, on school grounds, or within the village.
For bullying to stop Ethiopia, parents, teachers, and the government need to be more involved. The government should be urged to conduct more studies about bullying, especially in rural areas, as well as encourage schools and parents to implement anti-bullying campaigns. Non profit organizations in Ethiopia should also take measures to educate and help prevent bullying in Ethiopian schools and on the streets with a new way of thinking.