top-rated free essay

Bullying and School Attendance: A Case Study of Senior High School

By algermay-aliser Sep 23, 2014 7475 Words
Consortium for Research on
Educational Access,
Transitions and Equity

Bullying and School Attendance:
A Case Study of Senior High School Students
in Ghana
Máiréad Dunne
Cynthia Bosumtwi-Sam
Ricardo Sabates
Andrew Owusu
Research Monograph No. 41

July 2010

University of Sussex
Centre for International Education

The Consortium for Educational Access, Transitions and Equity (CREATE) is a Research Programme Consortium supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). Its purpose is to undertake research designed to improve access to basic education in developing countries. It seeks to achieve this through generating new knowledge and encouraging its application through effective communication and dissemination to national and international development agencies, national governments, education and development professionals, non-government organisations and other interested stakeholders. Access to basic education lies at the heart of development. Lack of educational access, and securely acquired knowledge and skill, is both a part of the definition of poverty, and a means for its diminution. Sustained access to meaningful learning that has value is critical to long term improvements in productivity, the reduction of inter-generational cycles of poverty, demographic transition, preventive health care, the empowerment of women, and reductions in inequality.

The CREATE partners
CREATE is developing its research collaboratively with partners in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The lead partner of CREATE is the Centre for International Education at the University of Sussex. The partners are: The Centre for International Education, University of Sussex: Professor Keith M Lewin (Director) The Institute of Education and Development, BRAC University, Dhaka, Bangladesh: Dr Manzoor Ahmed The National University of Educational Planning and Administration, Delhi, India: Professor R Govinda The Education Policy Unit, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa: Dr Shireen Motala The Universities of Education at Winneba and Cape Coast, Ghana: Professor Jerome Djangmah, Professor Joseph Ghartey Ampiah

The Institute of Education, University of London: Professor Angela W Little Disclaimer
The research on which this paper is based was commissioned by the Consortium for Research on Educational Access, Transitions and Equity (CREATE CREATE is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) for the benefit of developing countries and is coordinated from the Centre for International Education, University of Sussex. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of DFID, the University of Sussex, or the CREATE Team. Authors are responsible for ensuring that any content cited is appropriately referenced and acknowledged, and that copyright laws are respected. CREATE papers are peer reviewed and approved according to academic conventions. Permission will be granted to reproduce research monographs on request to the Director of CREATE providing there is no commercial benefit. Responsibility for the content of the final publication remains with authors and the relevant Partner Institutions.

Copyright © CREATE 2010
ISBN: 0-901881-48-1
Address for correspondence:
CREATE, Centre for International Education, Department of Education School of Education & Social Work
Essex House, University of Sussex, Falmer BN1 9QQ, United Kingdom Tel:
+ 44 (0) 1273 877984
+ 44 (0) 1273 877534
Author email: / /
Please contact CREATE using the details above if you require a hard copy of this publication.

Bullying and School Attendance:
A Case Study of Senior High School Students
in Ghana

Máiréad Dunne
Cynthia Bosumtwi-Sam
Ricardo Sabates
Andrew Owusu

Research Monograph No 41

July 2010


Contents Summary ..................................................................................................................................vii 1. Introduction............................................................................................................................1 1.1 Background ......................................................................................................................2 1.2 The Ghanaian Context .....................................................................................................4 2. Methodology and Data...........................................................................................................7 2.1 Measures ..........................................................................................................................7 2.2 Estimation method and hypothesis testing.......................................................................9 3. Results..................................................................................................................................11 3.1 Bullying (frequency and type) and school absenteeism ................................................11 3.2 Bullying and school absenteeism: Emotional problems and friend support..................13 4. Conclusions..........................................................................................................................19 References................................................................................................................................21

List of Tables
Table 1: Proportion of school absenteeism by bullying and gender..........................................8 Table 2: Ordered logit odd ratios [standard errors] estimates of school attendance in SHS in Ghana by gender ......................................................................................................................12 Table 3: Ordered logit odd ratios [standard errors] estimates of school attendance in SHS in Ghana by gender: frequency of bullying, emotional problems and friends.............................13 Table 4: Ordered logit odd ratios [standard errors] estimates of school attendance in SHS in Ghana by gender: type of bullying, emotional problems and friends......................................16

List of Figures
Figure 1: Predicted probability of school absenteeism for girls in SHS with friends..............15 Figure 2: Predicted probability of school absenteeism for boys and girls in SHS by type of bullying and friend support......................................................................................................17


List of Acronyms
AIDS- Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome
BBC- British Broadcasting Corporation
BECE- Basic Education Certificate Examination
CDC- Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
CRC- Convention on the Rights of the Child
CREATE- Consortium for Research on Educational Access, Transitions and Equity DFID- Department for International Education
EFA- Education for All
GES- Ghana Education Service
GET- Ghana Educational Trust
GER- Gross Enrolment Ratio
GSHS- Global School-based Student Health Survey
HBSC- Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children
HIV- Human Immunodeficiency Virus
JSS- Junior Secondary School
MDG-Millennium Development Goal
MoE- Ministry of Education
NER- Net Enrolment Ratio
SS- Senior Secondary
SSS- Senior Secondary School
UK- United Kingdom
UPE- Universal Primary Education
US- United States
UN- United Nations
UNESCO- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation UNICEF- United Nations Children’s Fund
WHO- World Health Organisation


This article is based on the 2008 Ghana Global School-based Student Health Survey (GSHS) and we would like to express our sincere gratitude to all the persons and organisations that contributed to the successful execution of the 2008 Ghana GSHS. This was jointly funded by Middle Tennessee State University, Ghana Education Service (GES) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Additional financial contribution was provided by Captain P.N. Tsakos through the Maria Tsakos Foundation in Athens, Greece. Technical assistance was provided by the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We are also grateful to the management of the Ghana Education Service Headquarters, all regional and district directors of Ghana Education Service as well as the heads and teachers of the schools that participated in the survey.

An earlier version of this paper was produced by Cynthia Bosumtwi-Sam as part of her dissertation to achieve a MA in International Education and Development during 2009. We are grateful to Sarah Humphreys for her comments and suggestions for improving this paper.


This research monograph adds a dimension to the analysis of access to education in Ghana by exploring some aspects of bullying on attendance. Sustaining high levels of access to education requires understanding of both the supply and demand for education. Supply side issues (e.g. building classrooms, providing teachers and learning materials) are often better understood than some demand side issues (e.g. relevance of curricula and pedagogy to children’s life world, motivation and sense of self worth and value). Issues concerned with safety, self esteem, peer support, and violence and bullying all influence demand and may be reflected in poor attendance and achievement.

Data from the 2008 Ghana Global School-based Student Health Survey are used to explore how attendance varies with self reported amounts of bullying at school. The analysis reveals surprisingly high levels of reported bullying and differences between girls and boys both in the incidence and responses to self reported bullying. Often the patterns are not simple to explain and involve interactions with emotional security and other characteristics of individuals. These invite follow up work to understand the dynamics of the social psychology the interactions between girls, between boys, between girls and boys, and between children and adults. All these shape motivation and may lead to circumstances that result in absence and an increased likelihood of drop out.

The paper therefore opens a door on issues that are expressed at the individual, classroom and school level that are likely to affect access broadly defined, and which may well influence the patterns of demand for schoolings, particularly amongst boys and girls most likely to be bullied. A reality needs to be made of the “child friendly” schools that UNICEF promotes. The “child seeking” schools that CREATE has argued for need to embrace the idea that sustained and universal access requires actions on both the supply and demand side that recognises push factors that may undermine motivation and self esteem in school environments that should be safe and supportive.

Keith Lewin
Director of CREATE
Centre for International Education
University of Sussex


This paper focuses on senior high school students and the ways that bullying affects their school attendance. Selected items from the 2008 Ghana Global School-based Student Health Survey are analysed first to explore the relationships between the duration and type of bullying and school attendance. Second, we investigate whether having emotional problems, in addition to being bullied, incrementally affects the relationship between bullying and school attendance. Third, we explore the mitigating influence of peer friendships on these relationships. In all cases we provide a gender analysis.

The results show that bullying is associated with increased absenteeism for both boys and girls. The analysis of reported emotional problems, however, shows distinct gender differences. For boys, increases in emotional problems are not associated with increased absenteeism for those who are bullied. On the other hand, for girls emotional problems were strongly associated with absenteeism and more so for girls who had not reported being bullied. The third strand of our analysis also showed gender differences in which absenteeism associated with bullying was mitigated by the support of friends for boys but not to the same degree for girls, especially those girls who had reported being psychologically bullied. In addition to the threat to school access caused by bullying, the gender dimensions of the latter two sets of findings suggest a school environment in which peer friendship and emotional well-being are intertwined in complex ways. While there is little or no research within the Ghanaian context, supported by research from elsewhere, we suggest that peer friendships for girls may be comprised of more non-physical, social and verbal interaction within which it might be more difficult to pinpoint bullying. That peer interactions might include a mixture of support and bullying could explain why there is a strong influence on girls’ emotional well-being and hence their school attendance.



Bullying and School Attendance: A Case Study of Senior High School Students in Ghana
1. Introduction
Physical and psychological bullying are prevalent in many schools. The global extent of bullying has been explicitly acknowledged in the international declarations and treaties directed at protecting children (and also adults) from all forms of violence. These include the United Nations (1989) Convention on the Rights of the Child; World Health Organisation (1999) Violence Prevention: An Important Element of a Health Promoting School; United Nations (1994) Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women; UNICEF (n.d.) Child Friendly Schools.

In the face of the international mandate for safe learning environments, the reality for many school students is quite different. Many experience bullying and many other forms of violence on a day-to-day basis within school (see for example, Leach and Mitchell, 2006, Dunne, 2007). Bullying, aggression and other forms of violence in schools can blight student experiences of formal education and their abilities to make the best of the opportunities they have (Commission on Children and Violence, 1995; Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2007; United Nations, 2005). More specifically, violence against students may result in higher levels of absenteeism (Rigby and Slee, 1993), greater truancy (Cullingford and Morrison, 1996; Green, 2006) and increased likelihood of drop out (Leach and Mitchell, 2006) which are described by Lewin (2007) as forms of silent exclusion from school, all of which contribute to less effective learning. Levels of absenteeism have been shown to increase with the severity of victimisation which in turn has been related to depression, anxiety, sadness, loneliness and general low self-esteem (Bond, et al., 2001; Rigby, 2003). Prompted by earlier qualitative case study research in Ghanaian schools (Dunne et al., 2005), in this paper we use survey data to investigate how being bullied influences sustained school access. Our focus on attendance or absenteeism draws parallels to CREATE zone of exclusion 3 (for primary education) and 6 (for secondary education) which describe students at risk of dropping out from schools. In this case, our exploration concerns the ways that being bullied is linked to a cycle of ‘silent’ exclusion – low attendance, low attainment and at risk of dropping out (Lewin, 2007). While our main analysis refers to survey data collected from over 7,000 students in senior high schools, an important feature of this paper is the way we have drawn previous findings from qualitative case study research into our discussion. The paper has three main analytical threads. First, we explore the relationship between the duration and type of bullying and school attendance. Second, we investigate whether having emotional problems, in addition to being bullied, incrementally affects the relationship between bullying and school attendance. Third, we explore the mitigating influence of peer friendships on these relationships by asking, are friends able to counterbalance the impact that bullying has on school attendance? Can supportive friends ameliorate the negative emotional impacts on young students and increase the likelihood of school attendance? Throughout, our use of a gender disaggregated nationally representative youth sample also allows us to explore the gender dimensions.

The paper develops in the next section as we locate our analyses within the evolving literature on violence in schools and in particular on cases of bullying in schools. Following


Bullying and School Attendance: A case study of Senior High School Students in Ghana

this we focus on the Ghanaian context in advance of a detailed description of our methods and approach to the quantitative analyses. Then we present the results for each of three analytical threads that frame the study as described in the preceding paragraph. In the concluding section we discuss some of the implications and refer to the wider literature to suggest spaces for further research.

1.1 Background
Violence occurs in every country of the world and cuts across class, education, income, age and ethnicity, it is manifestly multi-dimensional, culturally defined and context specific (Furlong and Morrison, 2000; Leach and Humphreys, 2007). Violence against children has been widely documented and sadly it occurs in places where they should be the most protected, that is, in their homes, foster institutions and schools (UN, 2005). Research indicates that violence may be perpetrated by teachers, other staff and school mates on children through corporal punishment, other forms of punishment, sexual aggression and bullying (Leach, et al., 2003; Dunne et al., 2005; Leach and Mitchell, 2006, UN, 2005). While violence may be carried out by people outside these contexts, our specific interest here is about bullying in school as a form of violence carried out by both by teachers on students and students on their peers (Olweus, 1993; Rigby, 2003).

There is no universally accepted definition of violence but the WHO’s Information Series on School Health: Document Three, provides the following description: Violence is the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community that either results in, or has a high likelihood of resulting in, injury, death, psychological harm, illdevelopment, or deprivation (WHO, 1999:2). While the distinctions in the above definition might be arguable and overlapping, our main concerns in this paper are with violence against ‘another person’, in particular being bullied by ones’ peers. Our primary focus is on interpersonal events in schools that might encompass intentional acts of physical bullying, as well as physiological bullying such as name calling, harassment and other forms of verbal abuse.

Interpersonal violence in schools has many forms and bullying is the most common (Olweus, 1999; WHO, 1999; and Rigby, 2003). It has been categorised as aggression or aggressive behaviour (Peets and Kikas, 2006) that is perpetrated by a more powerful person or group on a weaker person (Smith and Brain, 2000). Some researchers reserve definitions of bullying for repeated acts of aggression (Roland and Munthe, 1989; Whitney and Smith, 1993; Olweus, 1994; Smith and Sharp, 1994; Craig, 1998), but we prefer the definition provided by Askew who describes bullying as a “continuum of behaviour, which involves varying degrees of attempt to gain power and dominance over another” (Askew, 1999:61). This definition encompasses a broader range of intensity in interpersonal bullying that captures single as well as sustained, long term acts of aggression, as well as physical and psychological forms of bullying.

In its more overt forms bullying includes physical assault or verbal abuse, although it might also be more covert and indirect, carried out through relational manipulation or social exclusion including newer forms of cyber-bullying via the internet or cell phone (Crick and Grotpeter, 1995; Coyne et al., 2006; Greene, 2006; Gini et al., 2007). Some researchers using


Bullying and School Attendance: A case study of Senior High School Students in Ghana

gender analyses of violence among students have observed that boys tend to perpetrate physical aggression while girls use relational bullying or indirect aggression (Björkqvist et al., 1992; Crick and Grotpeter, 1995; Owusu-Banahene and Amedahe, 2008). This has been contested by Peets and Kikas (2006) who report boys being both “directly and indirectly more aggressive than girls” and by Bhana (2008) who reports girl-on-girl physical aggression in South African schools.

There is a growing strand of research that has connected sexuality to violence. This is often referred to as ‘gender-based violence’ to connote violence or abuse based on gender and sexual stereotypes and also to connect it to sexism and patriarchy (Hyder and MacVeigh, 2007; Terry and Hoare, 2007). The term gender-based violence has been widely adopted although it might be argued that all violence is gendered (Dunne et al., 2006; Leach and Mitchell, 2006). In schools, sexual harassment, often carried out by male teachers and male students on female students includes unsolicited acts of physical intimacy or demands for sexual favours with intent to offend, humiliate or intimidate (Wolpe et al., 1997). Again, this form of violence is manifest in a wide range of aggressive acts from name calling to physical assault to sexual abuse (Dunne et al., 2006). Examples include telling dirty jokes (De Souza and Ribeiro, 2005), boys using words such as ‘bitch’ or ‘prostitute’ to humiliate girls, using the word ‘gay’ as an insult to other boys, inappropriate intimate physical touching and coercing girls for sex (Dunne et al., 2006).

In a South African survey, girls report experiencing acts of aggression like beating and slapping by male friends demanding sex and a startling 30 percent of the girls stated that they were ‘forced’ to have sex the first time (Wood and Jewkes, 1997). Other research carried out in Southern African schools reported that girls were raped in school toilets, empty classrooms, dormitories and in hostels (Human Rights Watch, 2001). The male perpetrators of sexual abuse might include students, teachers, parents, relatives or other adult males within the community and while young females may be coerced into sex or raped, others engage in transactional sex in exchange for money (perhaps to pay school fees) and other favours (Leach et al., 2003). Relevant to the focus of this paper, the prevalence of sexual violence in schools in West and Central Africa has been reported as contributing to girls dropping out of school either due to unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS or because they could not bear the aggression or degradation (UN, 2005). Risk factors that make it more likely that a child will either be a victim or perpetrator of bullying or other forms of violence in school, include poor academic performance, high absenteeism, leaving school early and unstructured free time (UN, 2005). Resultant feelings of alienation and the risk of absenteeism or drop-out are often exacerbated by the bullying student peers (Rigby, 2002); an unfriendly school environment (Lewin, 2007) and the fear of physical violence in school from teachers (Marin and Brown, 2008). In a cyclical way, all these forms of violence are also a response to feelings of alienation. The 1999 Columbine High School attack in USA, which included the brutal massacre of 13 people, the injury of 23 others and suicide by the two senior high school assailants was revealed to be because they felt isolated and teased by their peers (Marshall, 2000). Learners who are generally made fun of, ostracised and targeted by fellow learners over a period of years may “... build up anger and hatred that finally explode into physical violence” (Marshall, 2000:133). Other examples of violence and serious crime by students in school include the 1991 massacre of 19 schoolgirls and the rape of 71 others by boys at St Kizito School, Kenya (Leach, 2003) and the eleven and 13 year old school boys in Arkansas (US) who were reported to have fired at


Bullying and School Attendance: A case study of Senior High School Students in Ghana

their classmates and killed four girls on their school play ground, as a result of rejection from a female classmate (Furlong and Morrison, 2000).
These sensational acts of violence highlight the significance of the psychosocial environment in school that includes the institutional norms and practices as well as the multiple relations between and amongst teachers and students (Gadin and Hammarstrom, 2003). A supportive and inclusive environment has been reported to have a positive impact on student well-being and academic effort (Marin and Brown, 2008). In contrast, poor psychosocial school environments can have harmful effects on students’ health (Gadin and Hammarstrom, 2003) school enrolment, retention, and the quality of education (Leach and Mitchell, 2006; UNESCO, 2006). Forms of violence within the school context clearly compromise the learning environment, student well being and the right of access to quality education. The first nation-wide survey of bullying in the UK carried out among 5-16 year olds from 1984-1986 revealed that 68 percent of the 4,000 children involved in the survey reported having been bullied once; 38 percent had been bullied at least twice or had experienced an outstandingly bad incident; five percent claimed it had affected their lives to the point of attempting to commit suicide or had run away or refused to go to school or had been chronically ill (Elliott and Kilpatrick, 1996, cited in Elliot, 1997). Subsequently, the UK Government introduced a school based anti-bullying programme Don’t Suffer in Silence to develop whole-school policies on bullying, document children’s experiences and mandate schools to develop and implement strategies to combat bullying (Department for Children, Schools and Families, 1999). In the US too, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 includes measures to reduce levels of violence, as part of the larger plan to improve academic performance.

This section has presented a review of literature on school violence in general and cited studies that try to define categories of violence, to explore its diverse manifestations, to point to its impacts on students in schools and to suggest some ways forward to ensure a safe learning environment which is key to the global right of access to schooling. This has provided a justification for our analysis that focuses specifically on Ghana, in an exploration of the relationships between a critical indicator of school access –school attendance– with types and frequency of bullying, and then how these relationships are further affected by the experience of emotional problems and the support of friends within the school context. 1.2 The Ghanaian Context

In Ghana the structure of formal education comprises a six year cycle of primary schooling, three years of junior high school (JHS) and three years in senior high school (SHS). The student survey responses analysed in this paper are from a nationally representative sample of SHS. A recent review by Akyeampong, et al. (2007) points to regional and economic differences that have produced uneven student participation in SHS, with rich urban dwellers having a higher likelihood of participation than poor rural dwellers. While the national statistics on access, retention and outcomes are important indicators of national educational and development progress, they provide limited insight into the quality of educational experiences of students in Ghana. The importance of social processes has been highlighted in human rights approaches to development and is manifest in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN, 1989), Health Promoting Schools (WHO, 2003), the EFA goals as well as in multi-agency advocacy for child-friendly schooling. This emphasis on processes


Bullying and School Attendance: A case study of Senior High School Students in Ghana

has also been reflected in the rise of qualitative and mixed-method case study approaches to research (see for example, Stephens, 1998; AED, 2002; Dunne, et al., 2005). Of relevance to this paper, research on access in Ghana has directly connected access and drop out to the quality of schooling (Pryor and Ampiah, 2003; Akyeampong, et al., 2007). Studies from elsewhere in sub Saharan Africa (SSA) indicate that being in school has often placed young girls and boys in difficult, uncomfortable and even vulnerable circumstances (Longwe, 1998; Mirembe and Davies, 2001; Aikman and Unterhalter, 2005). In Ghana specifically, multiple case study research has reported institutional regimes in which various forms of violence were both part of formal disciplinary measures and more widely part of everyday life for students in school (Dunne, et al., 2005). Analyses in the latter research and in another study by Leach, et al. (2003) provide ample evidence of gender violence in schools perpetrated through acts of physical, symbolic and sexual violence.

The physical violence of corporal punishment was found to be commonplace and meted out more to boys than girls. Despite specific policy regulation and the Unified Code of Discipline for Secondary Schools and Technical Institutes which states the offences for, and conditions in which corporal punishment should be carried out (Ghana Education Service, GES, n.d.), corporal punishment continues to be tolerated in schools. Indeed, indiscriminate or excessive corporal punishment was cited by boys as a major factor in truancy, absconding and drop-out (Dunne, et al., 2005; Ampiah and Adu-Yeboah, 2009). A recent incident on 16th March 2008 in Adisadel College (one of the leading senior high schools in Ghana) starkly illustrates the anxiety and hostility felt by some students. A student was purported to have jumped to his death from the fourth floor of the school’s newly constructed classroom block, to escape corporal punishment from the senior housemaster who had gone to the block to find students who had not attended a church service (Joy online, 2008). A student witness testifying before a committee set up by the minister of education to investigate the incident claimed: “some of the punitive actions meted out to students are too harsh” (Ministry of Education, 2008a:8). The report of the committee further stated: “There was evidence of fear on the part of students, that those who reported late for the common church service on Sunday 16th March 2008 were being caned by the tutors as punishment” (Ministry of Education, 2008a:10). Meanwhile the World Report on Violence against Children lists corporal punishment as one of the forms of violence which countries should take steps to abolish (UN, 2005). Another common disciplinary strategy in Ghana, the use of verbal abuse, was cited by many JHS students as more psychologically damaging than the physical violence of corporal punishment. On the whole, interactions between teachers and female students were reported as less openly antagonistic although there is evidence that some male teachers engaged with female students in personal and even sexually suggestive ways (Kutor, et al., 2005). Sexual abuse of school students by teachers and others is not uncommon in Ghana (Leach, et al., 2003) and it has lasting damaging consequences for young female victims in and beyond school (Forde and Hope, 2008). Within schools students also contributed to a hostile environment through acts of sexual and violent assault. As elsewhere, bullying and intimidation were widespread among students. The situation in schools is unlikely to be uniform although research with teacher trainees in Ghana did also cite teachers’ use of corporal punishment or conscious neglect of children as their most negative experiences in school. By contrast, they also referred to positive experiences that related to unique support they had received from teachers that had contributed to their personal development, well being, and learning (Akyeampong and Stephens, 2002).


Bullying and School Attendance: A case study of Senior High School Students in Ghana

This brief review of research in Ghana points to a rather hostile learning environment where acts of violence are commonplace and an accepted aspect of school life. It has also indicated that this impacts negatively on students. The analysis we present in this paper offers a development of this research by building on the insights gained through deep case study inquiry in an examination of national survey data. We focussed on SHS students and their personalised responses to violence in schools. Specifically, we investigate the relationship between being bullied and attendance, through examinations of the extent of the violence, the influence on school attendance, the students’ personal response to the violence and the value of student friendships for personal support. As such, this research can inform educational policy and practice in a context where educational access and retention as well as individual citizen wellbeing are key strategies and conditions for national development.


Bullying and School Attendance: A case study of Senior High School Students in Ghana

2. Methodology and Data
The main source of data analysed in this paper is derived from the 2008 Ghana Global School-based Student Health Survey (GSHS). This cross-sectional study included items on bullying, such as frequency and type, emotional factors, such as anxiety, sadness and loneliness, support from friends and school absenteeism among SHS students in the country. The Ghana GSHS employed a two-stage cluster sample design to produce a representative sample of students in all three grades of SHS. The first-stage sampling frame consisted of all schools, both public and private, containing any SHS class level. Schools were selected with probability proportional to school enrolment size. For sampling purposes, Ghana was divided into three zones representing all ten geographic regions: North Zone (Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions); Central Zone (Brong Ahafo, Ashanti and Western regions); South Zone (Greater Accra, Central, Volta and Eastern regions).

Twenty-five schools (both public and private) were selected from each zone. The second stage of sampling consisted of randomly sampling intact classes from each school to participate in the survey, within each sampled school a random sample of classes was selected. All students in the sampled classes were eligible to participate in the survey and weights were constructed to account for probability of selection as well as non-response. Total sample size for the survey was 7,137, comprising 4,017 boys with a weighted percentage of 56.3 and 3,107 girls with a weighted percentage of 43.5. The age of respondents ranged from 15-20 years across the three SHS grade levels. 2.1 Measures

Our outcome variable was absenteeism or unexcused absence from school. This variable was obtained in a self-reported account on the number of days students missed classes or school without permission over the past 30 days. Possible responses were none, one to two, three to five, six to ten and more than ten days. Around 25 percent of girls and 28 percent of boys reported at least one day of unexcused absences over the 30 days prior to the survey. Our main explanatory variable was bullying. The definition for bullying provided by the questionnaire was:

Bullying occurs when a student or group of students say or do bad and unpleasant things to another student. It is also bullying when a student is teased a lot in an unpleasant way or when a student is left out of things on purpose. It is not bullying when two students of about the same strength or power argue or fight or when teasing is done in a friendly and fun way (Ghana GSHS Questionnaire 2008:6). This definition of bullying includes more than simply physical acts of violence, but also psychological forms of bullying that may be enacted through verbal of behavioural means. It does not include corporal punishment, bullying or other forms of violence on students by teachers. Hence, the bullying considered in this monograph is exclusively peer to peer. The SHS students reported both the frequency of bullying and how they were most often bullied. Frequency of bullying was measured by the number of days the student was bullied over the past 30 days (a seven-fold classification from never to all 30 days). 41 percent of boys and 39 percent of girls were bullied at least one day over the past 30 days previous to the survey, while six percent of boys and four percent of girls were bullied over ten days during the same period. The kind of bullying experienced was measured by physical aggression, such as being


Bullying and School Attendance: A case study of Senior High School Students in Ghana

hit, kicked, pushed, shoved around, or locked indoors, psychological, such as made fun because of ethnicity, gender, religion, physical appearances or left out, and others not specified. Students reported the kind of bullying that was more prevalent to them. Of those boys who were bullied, 30 percent reported physical aggression and 38 percent psychological abuse. Girls also reported more psychological abuse (44 percent) than physical aggression (16 percent) as the most prevalent form of bullying.

The binary relationship between bullying and school absenteeism by gender is shown in Table 1. For each indicator of bullying, we present the proportion of boys/girls who missed one or two days, three to nine days or ten or more days. Hence, 15 percent of boys who were not bullied missed one to two days of school, five percent missed three to nine days and three percent missed ten or more days (first row in Table 1 for boys). This proportion should add up to 100 percent if we include the proportion of children who reported that they were not bullied and had not missed school (77 percent). For girls who were not bullied, the proportion of school absenteeism is similar to boys, with 16 percent missing one to two days, four percent missing three to nine days and two percent missing ten or more days and the rest not missing school at all.

As expected, the proportion of school absenteeism increases with the frequency of bullying. 22 percent of boys and 26 percent of girls who were bullied one to two days were absent from school for up to two days (Table 1). Similarly, 24 percent of boys and 21 of girls who were bullied up to nine days missed up to two days of school. But for the type of bullying we find some interesting patterns by gender. A higher proportion of girls who were bullied physically missed one or two days of school (28 percent) than the proportion of boys (20 percent). But, a higher proportion of boys who were bullied physically missed ten or more days (seven percent) than girls (one percent). The proportion of school absenteeism for boys and girls who were psychologically bullied is similar.

Table 1: Proportion of school absenteeism by bullying and gender

# days student has been bullied
1 to 2
3 to 9
More than 10

How was student mainly bullied?
Not bullied

1 to 2

School absenteeism (# days)
3 to 9
1 to 2 3 to 9


1 to 2

3 to 9



1 to 2

3 to 9

Source: 2008 Ghana GSHS. Note: Proportion of school absenteeism according to bullying type and frequency. Total within each raw for each gender add to 100% by including proportion who did not missed school within 30 days previous to the interview.


Bullying and School Attendance: A case study of Senior High School Students in Ghana

The next variable relates to emotions, which was obtained from self-reported accounts of anxiety, loneliness and sadness. Information on the periodicity of anxiety and feelings of loneliness (how often young people felt these emotions while in school) was combined with information on feelings of sadness or hopelessness to generate a latent variable of emotions. Principal component analysis was applied to these three scales and the first factor was extracted to generate an index. The index has a scale from -2 to 3.1, it is standardised (mean=0 and standard deviation=1), and the larger the value the greater the reported emotions, in this case sadness, loneliness and anxiety. These responses to the school environment are presented in a variable called ‘emotional problems’ although we want to stress that the intention is not to personalise these in ways that suggest individual fault. We use this variable to test whether higher emotional problems change the dynamics of the relationship between bullying and school absenteeism.

Our indicator for friendship support was coded from the question on how often other students were kind and helpful over the past 30 days. Possible responses were coded as never, rarely, sometimes, most times and always. The proportions of boys and girls reporting support from their friends was very similar. At one extreme, 9.1 percent of boys and 7.7 percent of girls reported never receiving support from friends, and, at the other extreme, 28 percent of boys and 26 percent of girls reported always receiving support from friends, respectively. 38 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls reported that they sometimes received support from their friends. We use this variable to test whether friends can mitigate the likely positive relationship between school absenteeism and bullying.

Finally, the GSHS data contain other indicators that are useful to undertake multivariate analysis on the relationship between bullying and school absenteeism. These variables are age of student, grade level, attendance mode and parental educational background. Grade level was divided into the three SHS grades, with the proportion of boys and girls in SHS1 being around 20 percent, 40 percent in SHS2 and 40 percent in SHS3. Attendance mode differentiated between ‘boarders’ and ‘day students’, around half of children being day students with no differentials by gender. Parental education was obtained from merging information on the educational qualifications of the father or mother and selecting the one with the highest qualifications. Qualifications were divided into completed primary schooling or less, junior high school, senior high school and university. The distribution of parental qualifications for girls was a bit higher than for boys, in other words, a higher proportion of parents for girls reported having a university degree (29 percent) than for boys (22 percent) and a lower proportion of parents for girls reported primary schooling (13 percent) than for boys (24 percent).

2.2 Estimation method and hypothesis testing
The first step of our analysis was to investigate the conditional association between selfreported events of being bullied with the likelihood of school absenteeism for boys and girls using an ordered logit model1. Two separate models were computed, one for the frequency of bullying and another for the type of bullying. We reported odd ratios in order to simplify the interpretation of the parameters from the ordered logit model (Long, 1997). The odds ratio is a way of comparing whether the probability of a certain event, in our case school absenteeism, is the same for two groups, in this case SHS students who have been bullied one


The model is conditional on age, parental education, school grade and attendance mode (day or boarder).


Bullying and School Attendance: A case study of Senior High School Students in Ghana

or two days against those who have not2. In this analysis we hypothesised that the odds of school absenteeism were higher for students who had been bullied, both by frequency and type, compared to those who had not been bullied.

We then explored the effect on the relationship between bullying and school absenteeism when we included emotional problems and friend support. Firstly, we hypothesised a direct association between emotional problems and school absenteeism whereby higher levels of emotional problems were associated with greater odds of school absenteeism. We also hypothesised a direct relationship between friend support and school absenteeism, but in this case the odds of school absenteeism would be lower for students who had been supported by their friends compared with those who had not been supported by their friends. More importantly, in order to test the role of emotional problems in the relationship between bullying and school absenteeism we included the interaction between bullying and emotional problems. A positive and significant value for this interaction indicates that school absenteeism increases at a higher rate for children who were bullied compared with those who were not bullied as emotional problems increase. In order to test the hypothesis that friends can help to overcome the detrimental impact of bullying on school attendance we also included an interaction term. A negative and significant association of the interaction between bullying and friends indicates that friend support is more important to overcome school absenteeism for children who were bullied compared with children who were not bullied. Finally, we investigate the mitigating role of friendship support for children who were bullied as their emotional problems deteriorate. A negative and significant association of the interaction between bullying, emotional problems, and friends support indicate the moderation of friendship support on those who were bullied as their emotional problems increased.


An odds ratio of 1 implies that the event is equally likely in both groups. An odds ratio greater than one implies that the event is more likely in the first group whereas an odds ratio less than one implies that the event is less likely in the first group.


Bullying and School Attendance: A case study of Senior High School Students in Ghana

3. Results
3.1 Bullying (frequency and type) and school absenteeism
Table 2 presents results from the ordered logit model showing the estimated association between being bullied and school absenteeism, conditional on age, grade, attendance mode and parental educational background. Results are shown by gender and different models were estimated for frequency of bullying and type of bullying exposure. As expected, we found that being bullied was associated with a higher likelihood of school absenteeism for boys and girls. With respect to frequency, we estimated that boys who were bullied for one to two days had 1.7 times higher odds of school absenteeism than boys who were not bullied. Girls who were bullied for one to two days had 1.8 times higher odds of school absenteeism than girls who were not bullied. In addition, the likelihood of school absenteeism increased as the frequency of bullying increased, in particular when bullying happened more than twice in 30 days. Boys who were bullied for three to nine days had 2.5 times higher odds of school absenteeism than boys who were not bullied. Girls who were bullied for three to nine days had 2.1 times higher odds of school absenteeism than girls who were not bullied.


Bullying and School Attendance: A case study of Senior High School Students in Ghana

Table 2: Ordered logit odd ratios [standard errors] estimates of school attendance in SHS in Ghana by gender

Bullied 1-2 days
Bullied 3-9 days
Bullied 10+ days
Bullied physically
Bullied psychologically
Bullied Other
Parental Edu (JSS vs. primary)
Parental Edu (SSS vs. primary)
Parental Edu (HE vs. primary)
Parental Edu (Unknown vs. primary)
Grade (SS2 vs. SS1)
Grade (SS3 vs. SS1)
School status (day vs. boarder)

1.130*** 1.120*** 1.140*** 1.136***
1.473*** 1.532*** 1.863*** 1.848***
1.966*** 1.988*** 1.405**
2.271*** 2.253*** 2.160*** 2.122***
1.764*** 1.685*** 2.365*** 2.330***

Source: 2008 Ghana GSHS. Notes: Robust standard errors in brackets. Estimated cut points not shown. Asteriks indicates significant at *** p

Cite This Document

Related Documents

  • Madera High School Case Study

    ...role in social interactions at Madera High School (MHS), but what remains constant, as it does on the national level, is that some students utilize social media to harass or bully others online. In a survey conducted by student researchers from Madera High, interesting results were yielded from the student body. Staff was intended to be left out...

    Read More
  • Bullying and High School Students

    ...Bullying Report Jessica Saldana BSHS/325 August 15, 2013 Deeneice Goodson, M.A. Abstract Bullying is defined as intentional, repeated acts of aggression by a more powerful person or group on a less powerful victim. According to research in the American Journal of Public Health, almost 30% of US middle and high school students are involve...

    Read More
  • high school “Twisted Sister.” Both wore high topped basketball shoes and hair free flowing to their shoulders. One spoke to me. “Hey, are you the lady who is talking to dropouts? You should talk to me. I'm a professional dropout.” I did. And to many others. Their stories spoke of racial discrimination and rejection by teachers. “The way I se...

    Read More
  • Case Study - Thurgood Marshall High School

    ...Summary: Thurgood Marshall High School Case (Harvard Business School case) presents an interesting “house system” concept. According to the case description, the Marshall High’s organization was broken down into four “houses”, each of each contained 300 students, a faculty of 18, and a housemaster. Each house was in a separate buildi...

    Read More
  • Report: High School and Attendance

    ...Improving Attendance at Beech Grove Intermediate School: A Recommendation Report ________________________________________ Introduction Like other schools around the nation, Beech Grove Intermediate School ...

    Read More
  • Bullying in Schools

    ...The Nature of Bullying may people feel that some of the major issues that plague our schools are drug/alcohol use or violence, yet no one recognizes the significance of school bullying. For the victims of bullying, they go to school everyday facing harassment, taunting, and humiliation, and psychological intimidation. For all potential educa...

    Read More
  • High School Bullying

    ...------------------------------------------------- School bullying School bullying is a type of bullying in which occurs during the time period a child is in school. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or emotional. According to a study by Yale, bullying victims are at least 70% more likely to commit suicide than non-victims. Bullying ...

    Read More
  • Bullying in Schools

    ...Bullying In Schools Bullying is an ongoing problem for many schools and communities. This behavior consists of teasing, threats, and stalking. This behavior is unacceptable and can turn violent, and even worse, deadly. There are many influences in today’s world that promote this behavior such as music, video games, movies, parents and other ...

    Read More

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.