In Bullying Around the World

Bullying in Jamaica

Bullying in Jamaica is seen as a problem, as it is everywhere almost, which is often children or young people abusing other young people. There are many reasons this could happen but activists are still trying to get leaders to pay attention to the issue and take it seriously. There seems to be a move recently to do just that, but some activists are not convinced.

A paper in the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health and Human Resilience organization, noted  in a study that political  leaders in Jamaica are failing to take the issue seriously, and that is making it harder for teachers and administrators in the schools to address the issue adequately.

This study cited cultural influences on the island that pressure people to not report bullying, and to just be strong enough to take it – especially for males. Those who complain are seen as weak, and that makes people less willing to report bad behavior.

While this study said the nations leaders and dept. of education need to take a stand, an article in the Jamaica Observer gives news there is some hope that this may be taking place.  There was a study conducted in 2013, which was the first ever national study on the issue of what causes bullying, conducted by the nation’s Child Development Agency. Resources have been given, and there are laws against it, but stories of it abound.

The article says the Jamaican ministry of education has revised its safety and security manual to address bullying, to give it a definition, and those were to have been released to the schools in the fall of 2015.  The policy calls for administrators to provide guidelines for creating awareness about bullying in the schools. It also requires procedures for handling bullying and there are now reporting requirements as well.


Bullying in Jamaica does seem common, though not necessarily more than anywhere else. A study of statistics on bullying in Jamaica in 2013 said 90 percent of children had seen bullying, 70 percent said they had been bullied, and 30 percent said they were at times afraid to go to school because of threats of bullies.

In the 2013 study on bullying in Jamaica commissioned by the Child Development Agency of Jamaica the types of bullying were outlined in these bullying statistics. There is a long history of bullying, and here are some of the effects of it.

  • 57.6 percent cited being teased or called names;
  • 31.5  percent reported being hit, kicked and shoved;
  • 28.6 percent indicate having lies told on them,
  • 13.7 percent report that they were excluded or ignored.

The children who said they had been bullied often reported more than one of the above ways in which they had been a victim.

Bullying also often takes place at school, but it can also happen via internet bullying or Facebook bullying as social media grows in popularity. Cyberbullying laws are just now being considered and is a fairly new area of the problem as it is no longer limited to face to face interaction. As bulling awareness grows, laws will have to be adjusted as we learn more facts about cyberbullying.

While some of those characteristics can be improved upon, often times a child has no control over circumstances that could put him or her at risk.  It is important for adults – parents and teachers – to listen to children when they say they are being bullied.

Psychotherapist Kayson Jones was quoted in the Jamaica Observer article as saying bullying should be taken seriously because it does cause injury, and because it effects people differently.

“Some of it brings some amount of trauma. The (children) feel fearful, threatened. Deep inside there is a lot of fear and intimidation, and depression. Some people who are bullied may feel like the situation is unique to them. It’s multi-faceted, and you will find variations on how bullying may have an impact on one person as against another,” Jones said in the article. It is hard to measure long term effects, but Jones feels those effects can come out in different ways. Jones added it is hard to define what is a bully, but a nobullying policy should be in place.

The university studies have also shown that violence is a major problem in Jamaican schools. Some have said violence is caused by overcrowding. Jones said that may by part of it, but he said he believes bullying has an even greater role to play in acts of violence. Violence in schools can be an act of bullying, and often high school bullying is just that. Middle school bullying seems to be less so, the studies show, but violence is a major culprit, experts say. While violence may be an act of bullying, at times victims may lash out violently as a way of responding to having been bullied.

Experts agree that awareness is the key ingredient in how to stop bullying. Awareness makes it less dangerous, or frightening, for people to report bullying. When people know it is not tolerated, they tend to do it less. Awareness, and zero tolerance is how to handle bullying.  Bullying information also needs to be available, and school administrators can help in that regard. Having a structured, well organized environment also helps dampen opportunities for bullying cases to develop.

That by itself is one way to prevent bullying.  Understanding why people bully is also important in learning how to deal with the problem. Simply punishing the person doing the bullying acts does not always make them stop.  Understanding the issues that cause a person to resort to this type behavior can help school officials help the bully stop the behavior. While the victim gets most of the attention, and rightfully so, the problems that cause bullying should also be addressed.

Primary bullying takes place in schools, but there is also sibling bullying in the home. It does not stop even with the teen years though, as adults are known to have experienced workplace bullying and office bullying at work. Often children who do bullying continue the practice as adults.

Bullying is hurtful, and at times people are embarrassed to admit they are a victim. This is a greater problem for children than for adults, but as awareness grows, people will feel more comfortable with reporting the problem. While it may be more up to the adult to handle his or her own problems, children may still want to hide the fact they have been bullied.

Another Jamaica Observer article, quotes Dr Patrece Charles-Freeman, executive director of the National Parenting Support Commission,  said there are signs a child may be having a problem with a bully at school. Those signs are consistent, and may include things like depression, changes in behavior, property being damaged or stolen and so forth.  She is one of the experts involved in addressing the problem of bullying in Jamaica. She said n isolated incident may not mean a child is being bullied, but if it becomes common, it is something parents should investigate.

She said it is OK for a child to defend him or herself, but she stopped short of saying a child should hit back. “Help them deal with the issue, but never encourage your children to fight.” A child could get hurt trying to fight a bully in a physical confrontation, but she said there are other ways for a child to stand up to a bullying person.

She said parents should teach proper conflict resolution, as well as independence and empowerment. She said parents should not hesitate to talk to other parents or teachers if their child is being bullied.  She believes it is the responsibility of the schools to provide a safe atmosphere. When a parent sees bullying signs that should be a sign that something is wrong, they should talk to the child and find out what is happening. Sometimes it is possible to also talk with the parents of the child who is doing the bullying.

“Then it is time to intervene, because you don’t want it to reach a point where your child takes a weapon to school thinking he needs to defend himself, or gets so frustrated or emotionally damaged that he becomes the bully, goes to school and creates havoc and targets the individuals who mistreated him.” Dr. Charles Freeman said.

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