In-person classes have resumed and so have complaints of bullying, said psychiatrists.
A section of students is already wary of going to school because of their own mates.
During the two years of online classes, many children could avoid meeting ‘bullies’. Memories of being bullied in school and the fear of being victimised are back for some of them, psychiatrists who are speaking to these students said.
Children feeling distressed, crying inconsolably, panicking and refusing to go to school have made some parents approach professionals for help.
“I was thrown like a ball because I was small in size,” a 15-year-old told a counsellor. The boy has been scared of school reopening.
The Class IX student was then in Class VII and “timid and shy”.
“They were big in size and I could not tell them anything,” he said. “The students are from a different section. I could get away without being bullied in the last two years because I did not have to meet them.”
A Class VIII girl was ragged in school to such an extent that her grades had started falling. Her marks improved during online lessons. She refused to go back to school when in-person classes resumed.
For some students, the bullying could be “severely traumatic”, while for others the intensity could be less but still the issue needs to be addressed, psychiatrists said.
“There are students who don’t have good social skills or have low esteem and are more prone to bullying. They are reserved and think it is better to stay silent. Many do not reveal to their parents that they are being bullied,” said psychiatrist Praveen Kumar.
Kumar said some students benefited from online classes because they did not have to face the bullies.
The school playground, washroom and buses are some places where students are bullied by their peers. Mental health professionals’ advice to schools is to be more vigilant and mindful of a student’s behaviour.
A Class VI girl who recently went to school cried continuously for one-and-a-half hours and the teacher had to call her mother to take her back. It later came to be known that she got scared when she saw the girls who had bullied her before.
“Some students revealed they are getting flashbacks of experiences that they went through in the past and are finding it difficult to readjust,” said psychiatrist Sanjay Garg.
Garg said teachers have to be more proactive. They have to be on the lookout if a child’s grades are dropping, if a child is withdrawn or pushed away from a group. Parents should be watchful for symptoms like stomach aches or headaches in the morning before school, said a counsellor.
“It is not that one instance in school amounts to bullying because then a child won’t learn to face adversities. One has to identify a pattern to see whether a child is repeatedly being subjected to bullying or seclusion from a group that is impacting him or her,” said Garg.
Two school heads said they would have to keep an eye on bullying.
“We cannot be in denial because one section of students can use the sympathy or leniency of the teacher to their advantage and bully others. Teachers have to be vigilant,” said John Bagul, principal, South City International School.