GEORGE TOWN: Whenever Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai talks about his secondary school days at St Xavier’s Institution (SXI), his eyes light up with pride – until he gets to the topic of bullying.
“I could’ve been stronger or louder in helping the students who needed it,” said the award-winning newsman, now chief executive officer and group managing director of Star Media Group.
“On hindsight, staying quiet was not the best way to solve bullying, so we need to speak up now.”
Wong was back at SXI yesterday as guest of honour, 37 years after graduation, to lend his voice to R.AGE and SP Setia’s #StandTogether campaign, which was initiated following last year’s spate of deadly bullying cases.
Wong spoke glowingly about the culture of tolerance at the school during his time, but admitted that bullying still happened, and would get worse if schools and local communities did not work together.
“Today, we have cyberbullying, where a victim’s sense of hopelessness and humiliation can be shared with millions, so we must take responsibility,” he said.
He added that other forms of non-physical bullying, such as body shaming, was becoming more rampant than physical bullying.
“You see a lot of people being taunted in Malaysia because of their physical appearance. We often brush it aside as a ‘joke’, but let’s call it what it is – it’s bullying!”
In his speech at the morning assembly, Wong urged the students, whom he called fellow Xavierians, to take up the #StandTogether challenge of creating a greater culture of kindness among young people.
“You don’t want to be remembered as that insensitive bully who doesn’t have the capacity to have compassion. If you’re a bully, stop and reflect.
“St Xavier’s needs to be an example, not just in Penang, but a model to all Malaysian schools,” he said.
SXI principal Dr Sim Hock Keat pledged the school’s support for the #StandTogether campaign, making it the first school in Penang to adopt the campaign.
He said schools had to adapt with the times and realise that a more positive approach was needed.
“The current generation is different,” Dr Sim said. “Old disciplinary methods like caning is not appropriate.
“It’s important to be more understanding, and to teach students to be responsible for their own actions.”
SXI head prefect Avvinash Thiyagajaran, 19, was himself a victim of bullying. He joined the prefect’s council to prevent others from going through what he experienced.
“I thought I’d join to stop bullying for myself, but it dawned on me later that I had a duty to help people who were being mistreated, and we now have the power to stop it,” said Avvinash.
The #StandTogether campaign was launched by R.AGE and SP Setia late last year, and has received ringing endorsements from Deputy Education Ministers Datuk P. Kamalanathan and Datuk Chong Sin Woon.