Irene, The Resilience Project's Manager leading a session.
Komo’s Do It Yourself (DIY) Clubs create inclusive spaces for students to meaningfully participate in improving their schools and communities. Through student-led service projects, members are tasked with identifying the most critical challenges in their schools and working together to design and implement creative solutions. Our ‘Chronicle Series’ shares their stories.
 
Driven by a desire to make their school a safer place, the DIY club at Nalumu Secondary School (name has been changed) set its sights on stamping out bullying. During the needs assessment process, DIY members revealed that bullying was creating a fearful student community, with a significant number of students missing school due to constant harassment. They heard a great number of reports about younger students being bullied by older ones, but, to their surprise, the situation wasn’t limited to peer-on-peer bullying. Students also reported being demeaned and teased by teachers about academic performance, family background, and even physical stature.
 
Many students were feeling oppressed, their esteem stepped on, and many were missing school out of fear. Some were experiencing anxiety because of the widespread bullying…. (Student)
 
Some students were missing lessons from particular teachers who were using bullying language. [The students]  even missed the days when those teachers come to school because they were embarrassing them [about] their economic backgrounds in front of everyone. (Student)
 
Fueled by these findings, DIY members were determined to create a culture of respect and empathy. They went straight to work, holding school-wide sensitization activities and teaching their peers about the different forms and consequences of bullying. They encouraged their fellow students not to be bystanders, thus creating a sense of shared responsibility among students.
This sensitization process fostered a deeper understanding of bullying and its impacts on wellbeing and learning outcomes. While DIY members were starting to see a shift in perspectives around bullying, they knew that they needed a system to address incidents and prevent future occurrences. Together with the Headteacher, Deputy Headteacher, and Chaplain, they created and trained the school’s first anti-bullying committee or ABC.  Comprised of teachers, students, and parents, the ABC is developing an anti-bullying policy that clearly outlines expected behavior and fair consequences for bullying infractions.
 
Everyone reported for bullying has to face the ABC. There are different approaches for first-time and next-time cases. For the first time, you are given counseling – other times there are other punishments they give. When you [continue to bully], they give you suspension for two weeks after which you [must report back to school] with your parents. (Student)
 
The impact of the DIY club’s anti-bullying project is undeniable. Students report feeling safer and teachers are more mindful of their interactions with students.
 
Right now, there is no bullying because students fear to face the ABC. Even the sensitization they did at the whole school changed people. Now there are regulations and no one is a superior to the other. (Student)
 
Ever since this term, no teacher is [using bullying language]. Even if they are angry they control themselves rather than calling upon students to embarrass them in front of the class. (Teacher)
 
When we did mid-term, teachers are no longer reading out people’s marks and trolling them for their performance. Now teachers are giving general comments and words of encouragement for all that get below certain marks. Some are calling people personally after class to talk to them about their marks and need for improvement. (Student)
 

 

The ABC is also having a profound impact on curbing stigma against students seeking support for mental health challenges. Previously they faced stigma and ridicule, and many avoided seeking help. In the evaluation of our mental health counseling program, the Resilience Project, 88.2% of participants at Nalumu Secondary School reported that they disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement: “People in our school tend to judge, treat negatively, or look down upon those who have mental health challenges.” On further inquiry, learners attributed this shift to the ABC and its zero-tolerance policy for bullying about mental health issues.
 
When you brought up mental health in our school, they were being bullied and many were missing sessions because they feared calling them ‘mad people and people with holes in their brains.’ But when the ABC was created, this is no more. There is a rule that if you are reported to bully someone from mental health, the punishment is suspension for two weeks. Everyone has a right to be protected. (Student)
 
The DIY club’s anti-bullying project has transformed Nalumu Secondary. With a clear anti-bullying policy and the ABC in place, the culture of fear and isolation has become one of safety and support. The Headteacher voiced his administration’s commitment to the students’ agenda, saying: “Upon completion, everyone in [Nalumu Secondary] will sign the anti-bullying policy – right from [security guards] to teachers and students.” This collective effort, led by students, ensures a learning environment where safety is the cornerstone of the school community.