Fighting the tormentors

  • Education
  • Sunday, 31 Dec 2017

Dr Wan Mohd Zahid says that there is a need to work with celebrities and the media to shift societal attitudes and generate awareness on the dangers of bullying.

Bullying is not natural behaviour and we must nip it in the bud before it is accepted as a reality of life in schools and elsewhere...

I am sure that the Ministry of Education has been collating statistics regarding incidents of bullying in our schools. For the public at large, who are concerned about their children being subject to bullying, there is considerable anecdotal evidence obtained through the grapevine and frequent media reports that has created the impression that bullying is endemic in our schools.

Recent reports have captured our attention. We learnt how bullying episodes have led to the victims sustaining permanent physical impairment and even death. And it breaks our hearts to see parents crying uncontrollably as though saying, “Why? Why?”. Undoubtedly, bullying can lead to tragic outcomes.

What is bullying? The Collins Dictionary defines bullying as behaviour on the part of one party to hurt, intimidate or persecute a weaker or smaller person.

We often find a group ganging up to inflict harm and humiliation on a helpless person. Our sense of decency immediately identifies such behaviour as downright inappropriate.

Decent behaviour moves us to protect and befriend the weak. Bullying on the other hand, is revelling in the sense of power over the other and feeling gratified by seeing the victim grovelling in shame and pain.

In fact, bullies are cowards at heart. They often need the support of a group to inflict damage on others.

In a bullying situation, the victim has no choice but to submit, passively taking in and absorbing the blows inflicted upon him or her by the aggressor. What makes it worse is that bullying is often not a one-off thing.

At school, if unchecked or unnoticed by teachers or school authorities, bullying can be sustained for the entire schooling career of the bullied person.

So, for the victim, going to school means the dreadful anticipation of meeting the tormentor again and again, submitting to the pain and torture which can only increase with the passage of time.

This is one example of bullying that I witnessed from a video clip that made the rounds.

It pains me to imagine that as I write this article and as you read it, somewhere in our schools, sons or daughters, showered with tender loving care at home, may now be undergoing harrowing physical and mental torture at the hands of heartless tormentors.

Bullying can even start at an early age and the effects can be damaging. My three-year old grandson went to a preschool which is situated a short distance from where we live.

His first week at school was fantastic. When I asked him about school, his face would light up and he excitedly rattled away non-stop on how he loved the school.

Even when I walked away to answer a call on our fixed line, he would run after me raising his voice to narrate about his fantastic school experience.

The next week the chirpy young man was not to be seen. He was usually punctual. He would always be there at the door, shoes neatly tied by his nanny and a little bag by his side, shouting at the top of his little voice, “Grandpa, we are late.”

Sensing something was not right, I went around looking for him. I found him hiding behind a screen. I told him to hurry up. He retorted by saying he was not going to school. I asked why. “A bad boy hit me. I am scared”. He was shivering when he answered me. I told him it’s ok if he did not feel like going to school. Until today he has not gone back to the school.

His parents are wise to not force him for fear of aggravating his dread towards school.

Indeed bullying has a negative psychological impact upon the person.

Some say bullying is quite natural in the sense that it will happen anyway, no matter what we do. I totally disagree.

Education is not just the imbibing of information which can be obtained through the computer today. Schooling is for learning through interaction with others –how to play, to cooperate and even to compete in healthy ways. The young learn to play various roles through interaction with their peers as well as with their teachers and elders.

Bullying creates an ethos where, instead of developing cooperative skills and values, “might is right” reigns supreme.

Caring for others is regarded by bullies as something for “sissies” and “softies”. Bullying, therefore, is not natural behaviour. It occurs because we allow it to occur. We must nip it in the bud and not allow it to snowball and become part of the accepted reality of life in school.

SP Setia recently launched a bullying prevention campaign with the TOGETHERNESS tagline. A little narrative on how this campaign came about is in order.

At one of our usual council meetings, the management of the SP Setia Foundation was shown a video clip on bullying.

Ten boys were seen hitting and kicking a submissive victim with wild abandon. The physical blows rained on the helpless boy non-stop. He was kicked in the stomach, in the face, in fact all over his body. Each time a ‘kung-fu’ kick was executed, the boys would celebrate with high fives. It was a scene of sadistic orgy. “This cannot be education”, said a council member. “How can this go on?”

I salute the top management of SP Setia for their quick response. Almost in unison the two top corporate leaders said: ”We must do something and do whatever we can to help the authorities to arrest the problem. Let’s mount an anti-bully campaign right now.”

The next day the posters were all over the place at SP Setia: on the walls at every floor, at the lounge and other areas of the office.

I am impressed by how fast things moved. No wait and see attitude. No setting up of a committee to study the matter.

In fact things moved with great speed. A meeting was held with the Star Media Group to enlist their support toward this initiative.

Their management responded positively to the “call to arms” to combat the bully scourge in schools. The Star was known to team up with the Education Ministry to promote the successful caring school programme.

In this regard I would like to express my deepest appreciation to Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan, for supporting our initiative. The spontaneity of his response towards our Bully Campaign impressed us tremendously.

We look forward to working closely with him and the ministry. Together with the Star Media Group, we now embark on #STANDTOGETHER which to us is an extension of the Setia Caring School Programme but on a much bigger scale, amplifying SP Setia’s LiveLearnWorkPlay development philosophy.

The #STANDTOGETHER bullying prevention campaign saw the coming together of so many celebrities as well as the strong support of Tengku Datin Paduka Setia Zatashah Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, the daughter of the Sultan of Selangor.

We at SP Setia are very grateful to Tengku Zatashah for consenting to champion the anti-bully campaign.

Many celebrities came forward to share their personal stories, some even breaking down momentarily when narrating the experience they once went through during their school days.

Most said that they kept playing the incidents time and time again in their heads, but slowly over time, managed to push it to the back of their minds and move forward for the betterment of themselves. Many other victims are not as fortunate.

Through #STANDTOGETHER, we will advocate that everyone has a role to play in reducing the debilitating effect of bullying.

This is why we are working hard through partnerships with celebrities, social influencers and the media to shift societal attitudes and generate awareness on the dangers of bullying.

To encourage the community to join us in making this initiative a successful and sustainable one, we are advocating an annual nationwide campaign every first week of April to be designated as Bullying Prevention Week and this will culminate with a #STANDTOGETHER concert in April where we will bring people of all walks of life, races and creeds together in solidarity against bullying.

We all have our roles to play in addressing the issue of bullying. We cannot afford to turn a blind eye anymore to this scourge.

Let us instil kindness and promote a caring community instead as we can only eradicate bullying by promoting unity and love for one another.

As we start 2018, let’s all make a renewed effort to stand together and make this as one of our new year resolutions. Wishing everyone a very good 2018!

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