Bullying in Honduras

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Honduras is one of the Central American nations struggling with violence and poverty. According to a United Nations study, in a story published by Al Jazeer, about 40 percent of children report having been victims of bullying in Honduras. That is not the greatest of their worries however, as there are many murders and robberies in addition to a problem with gangs and drug trafficking. That is part of the reason many children from Honduras and other Central American countries have fled to the United States as refugees. Bullying statistics show there is a lot of bullying in the Central American region as well as other kinds of violence.

A UNICEF report said in 2012 there were 4,700 children in gangs, and in 2012 also had the highest violent death rate for children in the world. That number has decreased since then but it is still a problem. Many youth who are either not able or afraid to go to school, end up being bullied into joining gangs. Gangs also are reported to do a lot of bullying.

Gangs target schools and children at times. They bully children into joining them, steal money, threaten and create a climate of fear and intimidation, which is how one classically define bullying. In the central district of the capitol city of Tegucigalpa , 90 percent of teachers said they had their classrooms disrupted by gang members creating a disturbance, or bullying.  While there is a problem in the capitol, the report said 60 percent of the gangs are in the San Pedro Sula area.

As a result of the bullying and fear, some have fled the country, but others just quit going to school, making the problem of a lack of education even greater. University studies give a definition of bullying, but the political climate makes it hard to reach solutions. They define bullying as using power to harass weaker people, and like in much of the rest of the world this usually happens to kids in the teen years.

The Honduran news website La Tribuna says the educational system is “bathed in the scourge of bullying.”  The Departmental Francisco Morazan, which is the region of the capitol city of  Tegucigalpa, reports 1,000 reports of bullying in the schools.  The national ministry of education reports getting 150 complaints daily about bullying. The bullying facts show many bullying cases in the country and telling stories about those cases is how to deal with the problem, experts say.

The newspaper article reported the story of a group of youths at a private school, who got a younger student to drink a lot of alcohol. They got him drunk, and took his clothes off before beating him and otherwise humiliating him.  Apparently the incident happened at the home of a family in the “privileged residential area of the capitol.”  The case was not pursued because the family of the victim did not want the public notoriety that would accompany the case.

The report also said there have been incidents of teachers bullying students. At one graduation ceremony three students were humiliated after being separated from the rest of the graduating class by a teacher.  In this case the parents did prosecute and the teacher was punished. These are classic bullying signs and part of what is a bully.

In another example, a 14 year-old boy was beaten by other people at a birthday party, and taken to the edge of town and bullied. People saw it happening and intervened, which may have saved the boys’ life.

As a result of cases like this, the Honduran Ministry of Education has created places for people to call, or to text, to make complaints of bulling and harassment.  Cyberbullying was also part of that program. These are just a few examples of verbal and physical bullying in Honduras. The laws in Honduras include cyberbullying laws.

Education Minister Marlon Escoto  was quoted as saying the recent rise in bullying is the result of having the behavior imported from people outside the country.

“The bullying as such was exported from the US schools to private of Honduras, as well as wine gangs, because not only learn the culture but bad practices or confraternities in US schools are common”, Escoto said.

Minstry of education officials say the problem of bullying is not as severe in rural areas, but also in rural areas there are not as many children in schools. He said there are laws about bullying in Honduras and in some cases young people are sent to youth detention centers when their behavior gets bad enough. The government has pledged more resources and quotes the law to give state aid to kids who are bullied.

Another problem related is that in public schools, as many as one third of the children are orphans or do not live with their parents. These children are more vulnerable, and often the target of bullies, or of gangs. Living in poverty makes them more susceptible, and the long term effects of this is that they don’t feel they have any alternative.

Bullying has created a sense of fear in schools as well. The Honduran education department website reports that as many as 160,000 children do not attend school out of fear, and that this has also led to an increase in home schooling. The report went on to say that 14 percent of teenagers have considered suicide, and seven percent have actually made an attempt.

There have been reports in Honduras of suicides caused by cyberbullying. That in part led to a law in 2012 against bullying. The report blamed the “epidemic” of bullying that has been spreading throughout the country. Gay students are also victims of bullying and officials say the incidents are increasing rapidly.

Part of the reason, they say is that people do not report it when it happens to them, and parents do not report it when it happens to their child. People are also hesitant to report seeing bullying because they fear they will be the next victim.

The Ministry of education says parents should be watchful, and notice if their child exhibits a change in behavior, or starts having property damaged or missing. They should investigate and talk to their child. The ministry also encourages parents to report problems to teachers, and with rules now in place, it is hoped teachers will take matters more seriously. Officially there is a nobullying policy and there are laws against it, but with the history of bullying it has, often the law does not work.

Cyberbullying is also becoming a problem, which is the use of social media like Facebook or Snapchat, to harass people. Telephones are also considered cyberbullying when used to harm others.

There is a lot of poverty in Honduras. Only about 18 percent of homes have Internet, but 93 percent of people under age 20 use mobile phones. Even so Internet bullying, especially Facebook bullying, is a problem and has led some teens to try suicide to escape. Facts about cyberbullying show that it is more painful at times, and that may be one of the characteristics that lead people to try to harm themselves as a result.

While 92 percent of children attend primary or elementary school, only around 50 percent attend high school, and fewer than that graduate. That leads to more than 20 percent of the people living below the international poverty line, which can aggravate the bullying problem.

As many as 13 percent of children do not attend any school in the poorest areas as they have no access to any school. Many people in Honduras, perhaps 40 percent, reach adulthood without the ability to read. It is not as bad in urban areas, but the lack of education is a major problem and that is one of the reasons of what causes bullying. It makes it easier for gangs to bully these people into joining them, and to get involved in the drug trade, officials say.

Bullying also exists among adults in the form of workplace bullying. At work bullying is not seen as serious as it is in middle school bullying or high school bullying in Honduras. Office bullying may not be as prevalent here, but the characteristics of bullying, and the reasons why people bully, tend to be the same regardless of age.

Honduras has a law requiring people go to school, and a law saying education is free, but they do not have the delivery system to actually make that happen. That is why bullying is such a problem, when it disrupts the education of those students who do have access to schools. Bullying seems to be on the increase, and the department of education is in charge of how to handle bullying or to prevent bullying. They are trying to raise bulling awareness and feel that is one way to prevent it from happening. Local people telling stories of primary bullying and sibling bullying, and providing plenty of bullying information is an effective means of how to stop bullying or prevent bullying.

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