According to experts, Kazakhstan has neither a thought-out anti-bullying policy, nor a protocol of response to bullying at schools.
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A resident of Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, Amina graduated from school seven years ago, but still remembers bullying. Moreover, she was on both sides of bullying just like many other students.
“It was in junior school. The target was my classmate. We opened her copybooks or a school diary and read her grades aloud. We threw her copybook to each other while she was trying to catch it. It lasted for a short time because her grandmother and a teacher came and punished us. It’s unpleasant and shameful to remember this case,” Amina said.
No one is surprised with the word bullying. The main character of the famous Netflix TV series, 13 Reasons Why, killed herself because of bullying. “A boy who survived” suffered from it – a well-known main character of all novels by Joan Rolling, Harry Potter.
Child psychologist Olga Mustafina said aggressor in this situation seems to call for attention. This is a signal “I am here, look at me”.
“It happens if a child doesn’t have unconditional love and support. If a parent is involved, the child will feel support, warmth, love and won’t need to express their negative aggressive emotions to classmates,” she explained.
The psychologist thinks a bully doesn’t have positive emotions, so they can get them through negative emotions and aggressive behaviour. In case of school bullying, qualified specialists must be involved. According to the Ministry of Education and Science, there are 7,207 school psychologists in Kazakhstan. It makes 97 per cent of total demand.
“They were laughing behind my back and imitated me”
From tenth grade, Amina became the target of bullying. However, she attended one of the top 100 educational institutions of the country, which is deemed exemplary.
They nicknamed us, shouting out Linkin Park, goths, emo, metalheads. Boys from other grades didn’t conflict openly with us, they were just laughing behind our backs, imitated us, pushed us in the corridor or in a canteen as if accidentally.
Classmates were even tougher; they commented everything – from our copybook covers to our appearance. But during tests everyone became friendly because my friend and I were straight A pupils and they needed us to cheat off.
Back in 2013, UNICEF studied the rate of violence against children in the schools of Kazakhstan. Two thirds of pupils who completed questionnaires faced discrimination and school violence.
Almaty-based centre for children’s safety Angel holds anti-bullying trainings. The head of the centre, Zarina Dzhumagulova, said parents complain about bullying in grades where their children study.
“Maybe there’s no bullying as such, but there may be conflicts within the class, strange aggressive manifestations in some children. And parents want to see a friendlier environment. There are a lot of stories, but unfortunately the age of bullies gets younger. Bullying starts from grade one literally,” Dzhumagulova said.
Representative of the ministry of education said children and their parents may call trust line 111 and ask for help. Moreover, a chat is available in Telegram “Let’s protect children together”, which unites all school psychologists, principals and representatives of the children’s protection board. Here they are going to discuss all known cases of bullying. Now it has 4,849 followers.
A Telegram-chat Bala Qorgay (Let’s protect children), which now has 744 followers, was created for reporting the facts of unethical behaviour of teachers. However, the ministry explained the majority of requests related to educational issues, rights of children and benefits for low-income and large families.
According to Zarina Dzhumagulova, Kazakhstan does not have a thought-out anti-bullying policy as well as the concepts of “harassment” and “bullying” in the law “On education”.
“If we take any case of school bullying, we don’t have a protocol of response. What should a teacher do in this case? How to achieve zero tolerance to school violence? There’s no clear instruction on what every participant of the educational process should do in a certain situation,” she said.
According to her, Kazakhstan does not record statistics of such cases. At best, there’s a record of suicides and suicide attempts of adolescents, but no one cares about the reasons.
Main photo: fergana.agency
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project implemented with the financial support of the Foreign Ministry of Norway. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.