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School bullying ‘increasingly worrying phenomenon’

By Maram Kayed - Nov 20,2018 - Last updated at Nov 20,2018

AMMAN — Violence and bullying at schools is becoming more of a serious issue, academics and educational figures warned.

They made their statement in light of a recent study conducted by Young Voices which showed that 34 per cent of schoolchildren fear getting bullied at some point in their academic life.

Compounding those numbers was the recent death of a 16-year-old boy who was hit in the head during a school fight last year, and the shooting of another teenager following an argument at school this year. The two incidents led academics to highlight the growing problem, according to school counsellor Ayat Mohtaseb.

“It is normal for teenagers to pick on each other, but the problem is that those who get bullied have no one to turn to. This is why simple problems can escalate to ultimately cause serious harm or even death,” said Roaa Shorman, a former school principal.

According to the Young Voices study, 43 per cent of those experiencing cyber or physical bullying do not know who to confide in regarding their problem, resulting in 17 per cent of them resorting to self harm.

A recent statement by the Ministry of Education also showed a dire discrepancy in the number of student counsellors — 1,650 spread across a total of 4,000 schools.

A source at the ministry, who preferred to remain anonymous, told The Jordan Times on Monday that “this means that more than half the schools in Jordan do not have a counsellor whose sole job is to listen to students. Of course, we all know that public school teachers have a lot on their plate already. So, it is not likely that they will have time to take an interest in students’ problems as well”.

Mohtaseb said that the problem is even more present among male schools than female ones, especially when it comes to physical bullying, mainly because “boys are discouraged to talk about their feelings, resulting in them acting out violently”.

“Social constructs shame men who admit weakness or insecurity, which is why boys prefer getting into violent fights rather than seeking help,” she continued.

To encourage young men and women to reach out, the ministry decided to assign 20 per cent of students’ classes to music and physical education, after 10 years of them being removed from public schools’ curricula.

“Although good in theory, I fear that logistics and staff shortages will get in the way of correctly implementing those classes, which will most probably end up being free classes instead,” Shorman commented.

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