Speak out against bullying in schools

Launching awareness campaigns will help spread the word. The emirate's education zone should then draft a code of conduct for schools.

Published: Fri 19 Jun 2015, 11:39 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:50 PM

Ignore the problem and hope it goes away because public memory is short. If a school in Sharjah where a boy was bullied thinks staying silent on the issue will work, they’ve got it wrong. Khaleej Times brought to light the incident in which the 4th Grade student was pushed around by a bully, which resulted in his arm being broken — with two fractures for physicians to fix.

It was also revealed the school allegedly hushed up other incidents of bullying involving the boy for two months, before the parents could take it no more and decided to report the injury.

According to the father of the child, the teacher who witnessed the incident in the hall where the boy was seated for his final exams, brushed it away, but a fellow student reported the issue. School officials have remained tight-lipped about the incident but, curiously, the principal posed for a photograph with the recuperating student, gifted him a hamper and wished him speedy recovery — in a Facebook post!

Again, posting a get-well picture on your favourite social network does not resolve the issue, but only raises fresh concerns about the school’s alleged inaction. There appears to be a lack of awareness and sensitivity about the serious problem of bullying. What were school authorities doing when the boy was previously roughed up, as alleged by the father?

The family of the victim has now initiated legal proceedings against the school for its alleged negligence which caused physical (and possible mental and emotional) agony to the child.

It is not clear if schools in Sharjah have a no-tolerance policy against bullies and the tactics they employ. Dubai and Abu Dhabi schools have strict rules against what should widely be seen as a form of abuse because the such kids are subjected to humiliating behaviour.

Victims go into a shell and and find it hard to integrate with peers. In Dubai, schools are required to sign contracts with parents on the behaviour of their wards. Students will be expelled from institutions if found indulging in such activity under rules set by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, the education regulator of the emirate.

The incident in Sharjah shows there is still a long way to go before we banish all forms of bullying from our schools. As a first step, schools must conduct regular assessments on the issue — on where it happens, how students and their parents intervene, and whether prevention efforts are working.

Launching awareness campaigns will help spread the word. The emirate’s education zone should then draft a code of conduct for schools.

A bullying reporting system will establish a climate in which abusers, however young they may be, are sent packing. Schools must realise a happy all-ends-well post on social media is not the answer to an underlying problem which needs to be addressed, and soon. Remaining silent will only kill efforts to weed out unruly elements from seats of learning.

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