Children of Arnett Gardens stand against bullying

TEENAGERS in Arnett Gardens, St Andrew, say they are being forced to defend themselves or portray tough demeanours to keep school bullies at bay.

Eleven youngsters gave their views freely on the topic of bullying during a Jamaica Observer/Rise Life Management youth forum last week. The event was held in a section of the community called Mexico and was conducted in collaboration with the Trench Town Development Committee.

While some of the children said they did not experience any attacks from bullies, others shared that they were bullied to the point of retaliation.

“I get bullied but it doesn’t really affect me anymore. It used to affect me to the point where I pop out somebody’s hair and end up at a police station,” said Danelle Warren, a 13-year-old Meadowbrook High School student.

One of the children said he encountered a lot of paper throwing in the classroom. As simple as paper throwing might seem, the young man takes it seriously. He said it makes him angry, and his reaction at times would be to throw chairs and other objects.

Short in stature, 13-year-old Ajani Chin said he was a target for bullies at his high school. His response to the provocation is usually to “bawl”.

Unlike the others who have a hard time avoiding bullies at their school, Christine Beckford, 14-year-old Tarrant High School student, said she finds it easy to ignore them. According to her, she is used to having mean words hurled in her direction.

“I don’t get bullied. If people try to bully me, I don’t feel any way about it. I grew up with mean stuff being said to me so if anyone says anything negative to me, I don’t really think about it,” she said.

Everton Levy, student of Tarrant High School, said he doesn’t have problems with bullies and he pondered whether it was because they sensed danger why they have never confronted him.

“I don’t get bullied at all. I love peace and quiet and I have a time when I stay by myself in my own zone. I don’t know if it’s the aura I give off why they don’t bully me. I can defend myself in a real pretty way, that is why I stay far from problems. I know what I can do to people so I just avoid arguments and confusion,” Levy said.

Anthony Creary, who now attends the Trench Town Polytechnic College, said when he was a student of Kingston Technical (KT) recently, he got into only one fight and it wasn’t with a bully. According to him, it started as a result of jealousy. He claimed that people found him to be problematic and as a result, they don’t bother him.

“The fight at KT was because someone was jealous over a girl. Growing up, I am considered a menace so no one messes with me; they know what I will do to them. I have anger problems but I know how to control it because of my boxing club,” said Creary.

In late 2018 UNICEF said that half of students aged 13 to 15 worldwide, which was around 150 million people, reported having experienced peer-to-peer violence in and around school.

The UN agency said bullying impacts student learning and well-being in both rich and poor countries.

The global report revealed that more than one in every three students between 13 and 15 years of age experience bullying, and roughly the same proportion are involved in, noting that studies at the time showed that six in 10 Jamaican students have been bullied at some point in their lives. The report said that some students claimed they were fearful of going to school because of bullying.

Fourteen-year-old Gabrielle Cooke of Tarrant High School admitted that she is sometimes seen as a bully, but isn’t proud of that status. She struggles to cope with people who she said can be really irritating.

“Not to the extent to make people want to kill themselves but I am considered a bully. I find people to be annoying. I have anger issues, and sometimes it takes over and I act out and people see me as a bully. I look forward to changing the older I get,” said Cooke.