How can we protect children from bullying in schools?

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HAKAM’s recently released report on bullying in Malaysian schools has revealed that bullying is widespread, with more than 14,000 cases taking place between 2012 and 2015. The majority of cases involved physical bullying, but cases of cyberbullying, verbal bullying and social bullying were also prevalent.

The report found that bullying is having an alarming effect on the mental health of young Malaysians, including lowered self-esteem, depression, and even suicide. It is clear that action must be taken to address this problem and protect the rights of children.

The first port of call in addressing bullying is parents. Children emulate their parents’ behaviour so abuse or physical discipline at home may result in a child treating their peers in a similarly violent way. Instead, parents should do their best to instil empathy and kindness in their children.

Schools also play an important role in addressing bullying. However, many schools are failing to implement a structured approach. Instead, they rely on ad hoc procedures as problems arise. Where schools lack an established policy, students may be unsure how to recognise and report bullying.

Some schools also fail to take bullying seriously because they prioritise students’ academic performance and reputation. Unfortunately, this can come at the expense of students’ wellbeing.

It must be remembered that students’ learning at school is not limited to the syllabus. Teachers play an important role in the personal development of students, from teaching them manners and life skills to teamwork and coping mechanisms.

It is crucial that teachers and students build strong relationships, foster trust and maintain an open dialogue about bullying. Schools should aim to create an environment where students feel confident and empowered to talk about their experiences with bullying.

Teachers can also use their position of influence to foster cultural change surrounding bullying. If bullying is considered unacceptable in the school community, then the bully becomes isolated and powerless.

In addition to fostering change within the school community, schools can also address bulling by engaging external experts. Psychologists and certified counsellors have expertise in practices that have been proven to address bullying. External campaigns and programs such as Bye Bye Bully can also help to improve students’ ability to deal with bullying effectively. Schools need increased funding and government support to implement these measures.

If parents, teachers, schools, students and the government work together to address bullying, we can better protect the rights of children to feel safe and protected at school.

Read the full report here.