According to bullying statistics there is a detrimental effect on learning when people are bullied, or even when they are witnesses to bullying. A United Nations study of 15 Latin American nations in 2011 found that about half of sixth graders said they had been bullied in some way, either verbally or physically. The study found that students who had been bullied tended to score lower on standardized math and reading tests, and even those who witnessed it were also negatively impacted. The study also showed different levels of impact in different countries, and some were impacted more in reading than math and vice versa.
In Nicaragua 235 classrooms in 205 schools were surveyed. In Nicaragua 6,789 students were surveyed, and about 91,000 were surveyed in the 15 nation Latin America region. Middle school bullying is the most common type, as studies have shown most of it happens between the ages of 11 an 14, and that is why sixth graders were chosen for this study. High school bullying is also a problem, and it continues into adulthood if not stopped early.
While bullying is an issue in the entire South American region, Nicaragua sixth graders reported more bullying than the regional average. The study showed 50.7 students said they had been bullied in some way, while thee average was 48.6. Of the Nicaraguan students, 21 percent said they had been bullied physically, and 29 percent said they had been bullied verbally, and both of these were about four percentage points above the regional average. School violence is also related to bullying in Nicaragua, and 47 percent said they had been robbed, compared to the regional average of 38 percent.
More students had witnessed bulling, as 63 percent said they had seen it happen, which was close to the average. The study revealed 47 percent said they had seen physical bullying and 39 percent had witnessed verbal bullying, both above the regional average.
Nicaraguan students were negatively impacted by being bullied, but not as much as the Latin America average. The study showed bullied students scored 6.9 percent lower in math and 7.3 percent lower in reading. The average for all of Latin America was 9.5 percent for both. Students who witnessed bullying, or who frequently had classroom disrupted by bullies, also scored lower, with Nicaraguan students scoring about six percent lower in both reading and math. The regional average was seven percent.
Marcela Román, a Chilean anthropologist who worked with the study, said she hoped leaders would question the school systems and educational policies that tolerate this type of mistreatment. She also suggested that as schools become more achievement oriented, they become more competitive, which leads to a lower level of respect and cooperation among students, and that could make bullying worse.
The study showed there was a problem in 2011, but by last year the problem seemed to have gotten worse. A 19 year old student in Managua was stabbed to death in school, and that has gotten the nation’s attention. President Daniel Ortega’s announced the implementation workshops, outreach programs and some other measures to curtail bullying in Nicaragua.
A study in 2014 showed two thirds of teenage girls feel it is unsafe to go to the bathroom at school because of bullying.
Phillippe Barragne-Bigot, an education official, said there are big consequences when bullying in present, and that it causes “psychological destruction” in victims. He also feels when bullies are children, it sets them on a course to develop more criminal behavior.
“Students who are bullied gradually lose the encouragement to make progress in their lives,” he said.
Victims of bullying are often perceived as the weak, or different, or not as strong as others in some way. However, the practice happens at all socio-economic levels, and can even happen to popular kids in some cases.
Marina Jacoby was crowned Miss Nicaragua in March of 2016. When she was crowned she said she too had been a victim of bullying when she was younger. She would like to be part of any program to eliminate bullying in all its forms – verbal, physical and cyberbullying. She would like to help children improve their self esteem and develop their potential. She said her way to deal with it was to “ignore them and turn the page.”
Like many Latin American nations, there are cyberbullying laws, and laws against bullying in general that promote good treatment. Even so, experts say it is not being put into practice in many cases. Nicaragua even has a special prosecutor for children and adolescents, who is Martha Toruno. She said it his hard to end the problem of bullying because it is a deep problem and has been minimized for many years.
She said bullying in Nicaragua exists when the strongest victimize the weakest. There is an abuse of power in bullying. She said at times teachers, or security guards, encouraging it by ignoring it or do things themselves that promote bad behavior. Nicaragua has a law against corporal – physical – punishment in the schools, and while Toruno believes that is a good thing, the law needs to actually be carried out.
Most social workers do want laws against bullying and cyberbullying, but many also see that this by itself is not enough.
Sociologist Carolina Bascuñán said laws are not as effective because they focus more on damage control and not enough on prevention. The law focuses on punishing offenders, but she said for it to be effective it should work with children, the entire education community and with families.
“It is the entire system that excuses and encourages the violence, and that must be in charge of preventing and eradicating it,” she said. Laws are a starting point, but how to handle bullying takes the whole community.
Sociologists also believe students can play a big role in stopping bullying in Nicaragua. Peer pressure can support bullying or it can suppress it.
One student group started a movement in 2014, called “stop bullying Nicaragua.” Two sisters started this program in their school to raise bulling awareness and distribute bullying information. They have made music, put together pamphlets, posted flyers and posters. They also convinced school officials to give talks to students about bullying.
Cyberbullying, which can be Internet bullying or Facebook bullying, or any other form of electronic intimidation, is also a major issue with young people. This group took a measure to do the reverse with their social media and facts about cyberbullying. Part of their campaign is to “sign a pact” electronically. This involves taking a picture of themselves with the Stop Bullying Nicaragua flyer and posting it on social media.
But often it does not stop with childhood. There is workplace bullying, and office bullying, for adults. Often children continue the pattern that was set when they were in school. Children who are victims tend to be victims as adults, and bullies who are children continue that as adults and these are part of the long term effects.
In late 2015, the Nicaraguan ministries of family and education, established a hotline for children to call when they are victims of bullying, as one way of fighting the problem.