PETALING JAYA: Students and teachers can finally mark the long-awaited #StandTogether National Kindness Week, which kicks off today after a five-month delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The campaign, recognised by the United Nations in a global report, has returned with a series of online-based experiences including the Kindness Challenge, Kindness Workshops, and Kindness Leaders Programme; all available at www.standtogether.my.
“The Kindness Workshop is interesting. Even though it was conducted online, I still had fun and I learned a lot of useful things about bullying, gratitude and empathy, ” said SM Sri KDU student Abdul Halim Mohd Nadziruddin, who joined a trial run of the programme.
Now entering its third year, the #StandTogether campaign was founded in 2017 by Star Media Group’s award-winning R.AGE team and property developer SP Setia, in response to a spate of school violence and bullying cases shared on social media.
The campaign is endorsed by the Education Ministry.
R.AGE deputy executive editor Ian Yee said the theme this year was #EmpathyEmpowers, as it seeks to reimagine an education system that’s founded on empathy and kindness, not just academic achievement.
“The pandemic has given us time to rethink the importance of kindness and empathy in society, and we hope that translates into an education system that’s no longer just based on academics, competition, and punishment, ” he said.
SP Setia Head of Group Branding and Communications Adelene Wong said parents should take the opportunity presented by lockdown rules to “reflect” with their children.
“It has been a great opportunity for families to reflect on their key values, and that’s why we feel it is important that the #StandTogether campaign continues, in order to reinforce positive values like kindness and empathy, ” she said.
Since its inception, many organisations have supported the campaign as partners, including Unicef Malaysia, Study Hub Asia, Childline Foundation, Teach For Malaysia, and Digi.
Unicef Malaysia Chief of Communication and Public Advocacy Marc Vergara said that while nurturing empathy may sound unimportant to some, it can create an impact on society, especially when it starts at school.
“I think we need to focus on the practical implications of empathy, working with the ministry and partners to show that it is possible to have a different kind of education.
“Disciplinary measures have an impact not only on the education of each individual but also on the system as a whole, ” he said.
Digi Head of Sustainability Philip Ling added that the 1,000% increase in calls to Childline Foundation’s helpline demonstrates how the campaign is “more relevant than ever”.
“Kids are going online much more due to Covid-19 and I am sure the experiences or stress that comes with cyberbullying is much higher, ” he said.
Two new organisations have joined the campaign as partners this year – Universiti Malaya’s Community and Sustainability Centre (UMCares), and empathy skills training company Tribeless.
“We think that there’s a lot of opportunity for growth in this area (kindness and empathy education), through the present modules that have been initiated in the campaign, and it will definitely benefit the teachers and students moving forward, ” said UMCares director Dr Amer Saddiq Siddiq Amer Nordin
UMCares, in collaboration with Unicef and R.AGE, will also be looking into research and development on empathy education programmes that will then be recommended to the Education Ministry.
The public can participate in National Kindness Week by joining the Kindness Challenge, an interactive WhatsApp chatbot which sends daily “Kindness Missions” to participants over five days.
Students and teachers, on the other hand, can take part in the Kindness Workshops and Kindness Leadership Programme.
Students who complete the Leadership Programme can then pitch for RM1,000 in grant funding to run kindness projects in their schools.
To sign up, go to www.standtogether.my.