THE problem of school bullies is not a new issue.
Remedies such as detention classes, counselling, suspension from school, doing community work outside of school and even caning have been carried out. These measures have, however, met only with limited successes. Soon, school bullying rears its ugly head again.
My thinking is you need a new way, a new approach, one that is of a transformational nature. In any ordinary secondary schools, normally there are not many bullies. By that I mean, there are a few bully “initiators”; the rest are simply bully “imitators”.
In a bullying scenario, there is someone who initiates the bullying, the rest just imitate or do likewise. The school administrators have to first identify these so-called bully “initiators” and rein them in and manage them. Without an initiator, the bully “imitators” will be at a loss and bullying is somehow contained within the school.
Now that you have identified the few bully “initiators” and reined them in, the next thing to do is to make them go through, what I would call an “attachment” programme. By this is meant, assign each of the bully “initiators” to a senior assistant, a head of department, a discipline teacher or a counsellor and even the principal himself.
After a counselling session, each bully “initiator” will have to follow the teacher assigned to him throughout the school hours. He has to dress properly in school uniform complete with a school tie. He has to follow the teacher every step of the way and be like a teacher attendant. If a teacher has to attend a meeting, he follows too. This includes even disciplinary meetings. If a teacher goes into a class, the bully “initiator” will join the class and tries to follow the lesson, whatever it is.
Whenever there is opportunity, the teacher will give the bully “initiator” pep talks aimed at correcting bad behaviour and encouraging good ones. He can also be asked to run errands for the teacher within the school, if need to. This may seem a culture shock to the bully “initiator”; he has never been accorded such care and favour.
The idea is the bully “initiators” will be made to see and understand the burdens, heavy tasks and responsibilities as well as the dedication and commitment of the teacher he is assigned to. The experience will bend the bully “initiator” to realise the hardship and nuisance his bullying antics have been causing his class and schoolmates.
When he has completed his “attachment” which may last from two weeks to a month, depending on the responsiveness of the participant, it is expected of him to return to his own class for the better. He is not to be caught in any bullying incident again. He is to take on the role of helping to deter bullying among his earlier “imitator” friends.
I believe that school bullies are those led astray by external factors. If they are given the chance to observe the good and right way of doing things and be made aware of how their bullying actions cause misery to others, there is good likelihood that they will repent and turn around.
There is no need for the school to send the bullies away. School administrators must be resourceful and courageous enough to re-nurture them. An “attachment” programme may be the game changer. Properly carried out, it will bear fruits. The initial embarrassment that a bully “initiator” feels when he has to tag along with a teacher will wear off when the teacher gives him his trust and faith. The bully “initiator” will return the same in good time.
LIONG KAM CHONG