Amollo: Bullying problem requires real action, not just talk


Columnist Benson Amollo states that both parents and community members should take more action to prevent children from being bullied.

Benson Amollo

Bullying among kids and teenagers in

schools and sections of our neighborhoods is gaining a prominent

fixture among us in a where-are-we-really-headed fashion than ever.

It must be awkward, as it should be, worrying that our children

find pleasure and/or relief in humiliating the hell out of each

other. It has gotten so worse as to send shivers down the

unexpected spines of those pop idols, such as Lady Gaga. And true,

Gaga recently expressed a strong intent to mount a campaign against

bullying. She went as close to it as attending President Barack

Obama’s fundraising dinner in Los Angeles, in an attempt to catch

the president’s eye for possible deliberations over this blot on

our record.

Lady Gaga’s move speaks of courage

and great resolve to pay attention to a matter that is seemingly

negligible to a political class lost in tearing at its members. But

this society giving up issues of such magnitude to pop celebrities

like Gaga should perplex us in the same way we are worried by what

tips the scales in favor of bullying among teens. Gaga’s anger

comes hot in the heels of the death of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer,

who took his own life. Tired of being pounded and humiliated, the

poor teenager had no better place to look in a society replete with

selfish pursuit, than dwarf the worth of his young life.

Rodemeyer deserved no death of the

variety he got. He instead deserved a shoulder to lean on, to beef

up his confidence in the face of his predicament. But from who? Who

would offer that much needed shoulder? In a society as extravagant

with expectation as this, we have delegated the role of parenting

to children. The American sense of individualism is finding a safe

home in children; we seem to be quietly telling kids to stop

complaining and “man up.” Yet we forget that they are short of the

wily equipment of a tough terrain that we must have accorded

ourselves as we vow to live for ourselves and ourselves


We need not turn over a haystack to

untangle the spin that depicts the behavior of our children. It is

quite clear that the leadership and adults of this country have

disappointed the children. The kind of fire-brigade response that

child bullying has received is a far cry from what really needs to

be done. The American sense of freedom seems to have hit an ugly

misinterpretation when it comes to children.

Studies continue to offer

gut-wrenching statistics on bullying among children. According to a

1998 government-sanctioned study of 6,500 children in rural South

Carolina, 23 percent of students in grades 4 through 6 had been

bullied “several times” or more, while 20 percent had bullied

others. Similar studies also show that 17 percent of students in

grades 6 through 10 reported having been bullied “sometimes” or

more, with 8 percent being bullied once a week. Nineteen percent

said they had been a bully to others “sometimes” or


As if the statistics and the sense

of urgency that is the fatal end to bullying aren’t enough, all we

have attempted is talk. We’ve seen talk right from the White House.

President Obama has led in simply castigating bullying as if kids

will be conscious enough to toe the line. We have simply ignored

the need for constant engagement on how best to keep bullying in

check. Sociologists have offered some of the reasons for bullying

as the need for power and dominance by the bullies. Bullies also

find satisfaction in causing harm and suffering to others as they

reap their psychological or material rewards.

Talk alone, and failure to summon

the needed courage to face the challenge of child-bullying isn’t

enough. There is wisdom in engaging everyone to offer children all

they need to lead a childlike life: love, close attention, concise

moral counsel and collective vigilance. Communities must create a

strong partnership with centers of learning and government to state

a constant presence in the life of children. Parents must find ways

of staying involved in the lives of their children in ways that

offer them the needed courage to face other children with a loving

discipline and understanding.

These are not easy to achieve. It

will mean both far-reaching investments of money, emotion,

confidence and a serious sustainable resolve. The government must

meet its part of the bargain by ensuring that we have a crop of

teachers who are mindful of the welfare of children while in

school. Such commitment must see teachers in schools equipped with

analytical instincts as to gauge the psychology of their