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Building a foundation of Safety: Nigeria due for an anti-bullying policy

By Favour Henshaw

Bullying and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) represent significant challenges for children and adolescents, often leaving lasting scars on their psychological well-being. While each phenomenon has been extensively discussed in my previous article, understanding their interconnectedness with juvenile delinquency provides valuable insights for intervention and prevention efforts.

Children who experience adverse childhood experiences such as physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or household dysfunctions are more likely to be involved in bullying, either as perpetrators or victims. Furthermore, they often lack the necessary coping mechanisms and social skills to navigate conflict situations effectively, which makes them more vulnerable to becoming victims of bullying.

The link between bullying and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is intertwined, as individuals who engage in bullying behavior may themselves have experienced adverse childhood experiences, perpetuating a cycle of trauma and aggression.

Interestingly, for some of the perpetrators, bullying may serve as a maladaptive coping mechanism for dealing with unresolved trauma or feelings of powerlessness. Numerous studies have shown that both victims and perpetrators of bullying are at an increased risk of engaging in delinquent behavior during adolescence. More so, individuals who engage in bullying behavior may exhibit a range of risk factors associated with delinquency, including aggression, impulsivity, and defiance of authority. Without appropriate intervention, these behaviors can escalate, leading to a more serious form of antisocial misconduct.

This article is targeted at addressing bullying through policy. It is pertinent to note that an effective anti-bullying policy must recognize the underlying factors contributing to bullying behaviors and implement strategies that promote prevention, intervention, and support. Policy must prioritize creating a safe and inclusive environment in schools and communities where children feel empowered to report bullying and seek assistance, or parents get justice in the case of severe outcomes like bodily harm, injury, or death. We should recognize the substantial impact that bullying and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can have on personal development, mental health, and even our economy. Nigeria is due for a federal law that directly addresses bullying, as some behaviors have become criminal, creating a hostile environment at schools. For instance, the Dowen College Sylvester died as a result of multiple internal injuries sustained from being beaten by a fellow student; the Premium Academy Karen-Happuch, who was sexually assaulted and later died of complications; the GSS Kwali Yahaya Nuhu, who was beaten and killed by the teacher for not completing his assignment despite his ill health; and the list goes on; sadly, only 1% out of 10 get justice for these acts. Schools should be obligated by the anti-bullying laws to address the conduct of any child or teacher who uses objectively offensive and unwelcome words such as derogatory language, intimidation, threats, physical contact, or physical violence.
To ensure a safe learning environment, Nigeria must adopt a policy prohibiting bullying or harassing behavior. School governing boards and the education system must include key policies and procedural elements such as:
▪️Descriptions of the types of behavior expected for each student and employee, especially in boarding schools.
▪️The definition of bullying and harassment aligns with the federal anti-bullying statutory provision that is binding.
▪️Disciplinary consequences and remedial actions for a person who commits an act of bullying or harassment.
▪️Procedure for reporting and investigations, including the designation of the principal and a security officer as the persons responsible for the investigation.
▪️Schools with previous records of bullying must issue statements regarding how the policy will be publicized for proper awareness and adherence.
▪️All schools must issue statements prohibiting reprisal or retaliation against anyone who reports an act of bullying or harassment, and there must be stringent consequences for retaliation or reprisal. 
Primarily, the key components of our anti-bullying and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) policy are:

  1. Prevention: Our proposed policy recognizes and is focused on implementing evidence-based bullying prevention programs that address the root cause of bullying and promote positive social interaction and empathy among individuals (whether students or teachers). These programs would be integrated into school curricula and tailored to the specific needs of diverse populations, ethnic and religious differences.
  2. Intervention: We are keen on establishing a clear protocol for responding to incidents of bullying, including timely independent investigation, appropriate disciplinary action, and support for both victims and perpetrators. Educators and school staff must receive training on recognizing the signs of bullying and providing trauma-informed care to affected students.
  3. Support: providing comprehensive support services for students who have experienced bullying or adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), including access to counseling, mental health resources, and peer booth camps, is a vital aspect of the policy, as creating a culture of care and empathy within schools can help mitigate the long-term effects of trauma and foster resilience among individuals.
    For adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), we strongly prioritize strategies that mitigate and prevent the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on children and families, such as early identification, intervention, and support, a trauma-informed approach, and policies that promote economic stability.
    The United Women’s Voice International Foundation is an organization committed to providing a safe, inclusive, and supportive environment for all individuals. We recognize the significant impacts bullying and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can have on personal development, mental health, educational involvement, and overall well-being; hence, the “Anti-bully and Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs) policy“ project aims to prevent bullying and address the effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), fostering a culture of respect, empathy, and building a foundation of resilience.

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