Young people tackle bullying in their college
Earlier this year, a group of young migrants took action against bullying in their college in London, as part of our Hearing All Voices project.
Bullying is a widespread phenomenon in schools around the world. In the United Kingdom, 43% of children and young people experience bullying each year.
According to the Annual Bullying Survey 2015, carried out in 73 schools and colleges with 4,800 young people between 13-20 and conducted by the organisation Ditch the Label, the climate of bullying in UK schools continues to be a pressing concern: “74% of those who have been bullied have at some point been physically attacked; 17% have been sexually assaulted; 62% have been cyber bullied.”
The key driver of bullying, the survey reports, is deviation or perceived deviation from what is deemed “the norm”, as this renders the person vulnerable. Those who stray from the “ideal visions of beauty represented within the media,” from heterosexuality, those who have a disability or who come from the lowest income background,… are all more likely targets of bullying.
Suffering from bullying significantly and negatively affects the emotional and physical development of young people. Ditch the Label reported that, “as a result of bullying, 29% self-harmed, 27% skipped class, 14% developed an eating disorder and 12% ran away from home.”
Bullying those who are different
Knowing these statistics, it is not surprising that when we asked a class of young refugees and migrants, some of whom are at risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) in London to identify an important issue affecting their life, they came up with bullying.
The young people were involved in our Hearing All Voices project, which, using the Child to Child Step Approach, supports them to take social action and bring about positive change in their lives, their schools and the wider community. The process builds the essential life and social skills young people need to be able to gain employment in the future.
The two classes were made up of young people who had recently arrived in the UK with and without their families, some fleeing war in Somalia and others the dangerous Brazilian favelas.
It is not surprising that many of the young people had experienced bullying – between the language issue and the difficult adaptation to a new culture, these young people were the perfect target. Some of the girls told us how they were called “ugly”, “idiot”; how they felt “horrible”, “different”; how people were pointing at them in public settings and refusing to sit next to them on the bus…
As a result, they were shy and seriously lacking in self-confidence, which they said our project helped reverse by giving them purpose, life and communication skills.
“Bullying – Please guys don’t do it. You hurt people like you.”
The young people started by conducting surveys around the college and in the local community to explore and better understand the climate of bullying in their environment. They found out that many of their peers did not have the language needed to even label the bullying that was going on. In some cases, those that they spoke to reported being too anxious to complain and in some cases were not even sure how to lodge a complaint. One of the young interviewers reported that, “some people didn’t know the word ‘bully’; others were scared to say they were bullied.”
Realising that there were many more incidents of bullying than were acknowledged, they identified the need to work on raising awareness of bullying across their college community. To do so, they created a Facebook page – contributing a combination of self-made and found material (videos, podcasts, posters and factual information) – and launched a poster campaign within the college.
After running the awareness-raising campaign the young people involved in Hearing All Voices were more confident, more socially aware and had a far stronger sense of their agency.
“At the beginning of the project I didn’t feel confident. I was scared – I thought people would laugh at me… Now, I think, why was I scared to talk to people?! We went outside and we talked to many people, and it was fun!” Hannah told us.
“Before I was lazy – now I know it is important to try and change things,” Arturo said.
You can read about the achievements of the other group of young people involved in Hearing All Voices, which worked on homelessness, here. The two articles are part of celebrating the #iwill campaign.