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JUST MY PERSPECTIVE

BULLYING AND VIOLENCE IN SCHOOLS

Sis. Pathma Krishnan, Regional Coordinator, Education International, Asia & Pacific Region

Whether it is bullying in schools, offices, social or cyber it has to stop. There is no excuse for bullying and many sadly are afraid to speak up when it happens. It is not a circumstance that is limited to a classroom, a street corner or a home. Bullying permeates the world but it has different views and this helps the world to see it differently. Bullying is the belittling of someone of many reasons including jealousy, power, personal problems, for enjoyment, and these are some generic reasons and there are many more. So the question that needs an answer is whether bullying is harmful to the victim because they are made to feel small and no one likes that feeling.

The print and online media are filled with stories of bullying. Stories of school bullies, street bullies playground bullies, who sodomized and caused death to a young person in Malaysia early this year, bullied for being different (LGBTI), bullied because of being poor, bullied because they think they have the power to do so. However, bullying starts at a young age when people are perceived as weak.

When smart, intelligent young people kill themselves after being bullied, is it the fault of the victim? When sad things like this occur, some feel it is the fault of the victim. Bullies have the abilities to create havoc and seem like the innocent party. Bullies have acquired this skill and they only wish to destroy. Yet the problem goes on and on. School kids are forced into gangs, younger siblings are afraid to walk to school alone, some are threatened continuously until the victims decides to react such as killing themselves for being so powerless.

Many children in the urban poor areas feel that the only way they can get protected is to join a gang. Living in a concrete jungle, it is difficult for the kids to find a place to hide from the gangs. Gangs in the urban cities are flourishing by recruiting school kids to be drug dealers, and when stories are written in newspaper, it is seen as gang violence. In the first place how did this happen to innocent school going children? What made them make decisions of joining a gang or for some children, death is the only way out. Some of these gangs were bullied and they have become gangs to protect themselves.

Where have the government, parents, schools, education system gone wrong? What is the missing piece here? Why are young children killing and hurting other young children? Where has society gone wrong? Many times there are no witness to the incidents and it is difficult for anyone to monitor the bullying that goes on in schools, street, home and others. This is very much like other crimes: nothing can be done until someone gets hurt.

The UNESCO International Symposium of School Violence and Bullying was held from January 17 -19, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea with the theme – “From Evidence to Action”. There were sharing of challenges, experiences, some personal , best practices on how to curb violence and bullying in schools. The Deputy Prime Minister who is also the Education Minister shared how South Korea is trying to deal with bullying in schools.

A pilot program called “WEE” (we and education), promotes counseling, emotion education, healing and how parents, students, educators, society can work together and have positive environment in schools. They are also piloting a free semester in schools and colleges where students can explore other subjects of study like art, music, sports and teachers are exempted from giving examinations in that free semester. There has been positive success and the Korean government is trying to pilot in 40 other schools and instead of one free semester, they are looking at one year free semester.

There is no easy way out but talking about bullying helps. Due to cultural restrictions people find it difficult to talk to their children about bullying. More parents must learn how to do so and school teachers, educators and counselors must introduce the subject to young kids. They must be trained to identify kids who are bullied and deal with them effectively before it is too late. They cannot have a careless attitude although it is a difficult and a time consuming effort.

Some of the ways that they can help the victims is to watch their daily demeanors, classroom diaries, paying attention to the kids art and storytelling, see if they are writing anonymously about bullies and giving this information in bits and pieces. We must remember that kids hurt themselves because of fear.

How can young children help themselves and try to stop being victims. One you can tell the bullies to stop and get away from the situation. Second you can tell a trusted adult. Third, if you see someone being bullied, be brave and inform the authorities in school or home. Fourth, reach out to your friends and be friends. Fifth, parents, teachers, educators and society adults can listen and support their children and believe in them.

Can bullying be eradicated? The answer might be a simple Yes or No. I believe it can be but the process might be complex. The society cannot react to bullying but must take proactive approach to bullying behaviors, otherwise bullying will continue. If we re-work our thinking and find a way to change bullying behaviors, we stand a chance of eradicating or at least significantly reduce bullying and violence in schools.