Influence of Peer Bullying on Student Engagement in School Activities: The Case of Secondary Schools in Laikipia County, Kenya
Ombasa, Edwin Andama
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The World Health Organization ranked Kenya among countries with the leading cases of bullying in 2016. According to the study, prevalence of bullying in Kenyan secondary schools was 57.4 % for students who got bullied at least once a month. These findings raised concern because bullying causes physical, emotional, and psychological harm to victims. However, prior studies did not compare how peer bullying affects academic and co-curricular engagement of victims, bullies and observers. It was against this background that the study investigated the influence of peer bullying on student engagement in school activities in Laikipia County. The study used the theory of humiliation by Evelin Gerda Lindner. A descriptive survey design was used. Stratified random sampling and purposive sampling were used to sample 374 students, 11 teachers, and 11 Deputy Principals from 11 schools. Questionnaires, focus group discussions, and interviews collected data. Piloting was done in one school to establish the validity and reliability of the instruments. Qualitative data was categorized into themes and analyzed in a narrative form whereas quantitative data was analyzed using percentages and frequencies. Frequency tables presented quantitative data whereas qualitative data was presented in narrative themes. The first objective revealed that verbal, physical, and property forms of peer bullying were common among peers. The second objective found that boys were more likely to be involved as victims of property and physical bullying whereas girls were more likely to be involved as victims of verbal bullying because bullies used their physical appearance to bully them. The third objective about the influence of peer bullying on academic engagement revealed that being bullied made victims skip lessons because of fear. Other victims stopped answering questions and failed to write lesson notes because of stress. Perpetrating peer bullying caused suspension from school for bullies. It also made bullies miss exams for violating school rules. In contrast, observing incidents of peer bullying created fear among observers and influenced them to change schools and withdraw from discussion groups. The fourth objective on the effects of peer bullying on co-curricular engagement revealed that being bullied caused victims to drop out of co-curricular activities because of fear. Furthermore, victims developed hatred and convinced friends not to join co-curricular activities. Perpetrating peer bullying caused bullies to be suspended from CCAs for creating disturbance. Other bullies missed competitions and got expelled from co-curricular activities. Observers lost morale to participate in CCAs and eventually dropped out for fear of being bullied. These findings led to the conclusion that an increase in cases of peer bullying lowered academic and co-curricular engagement. The study recommends that teachers should increase vigilance on students and ensure that cases of low academic and co-curricular engagement caused by peer bullying are detected early and curbed.