KUANTAN: Instances of abuse and violence against children in school are very alarming and must be promptly addressed by the government, says Wanita MCA chief Datuk Heng Seai Kie (pic).
Referring to a recent report by the All Women's Action Society (Awam) and Save the Schools MY (STS), Heng said it was as much a heart-wrenching experience as it was a rallying cry for the children's sake.
She said the schooling environment was supposed to be a safe space for children to learn, grow and interact with peers.
Therefore, it was unacceptable that some of them fell victim to sexual harassment, period spot checks and bullying.
"More worryingly, one-third of the offenders are members of the school authority. As a student’s role model and protector, teachers shoulder a great deal of trust and respect.
"Hence, any one teacher who misuses his or her authority to victimise students should be condemned and punished," Heng said in a statement on Friday (Dec 3).
The report titled "770 Testimonies of Sexual Harassment, Period Spot Checks, Bullying and Other Abuse in Schools" revealed that 89.2% of all sexual harassment violations occurred in primary and secondary institutions of learning.
Additionally, out of the 1,145 incidents of abuse, the report identified a total of 1,495 violations with 279 involving multiple infractions.
Across all the incidents, 274 led to the victims experiencing negative psychosocial consequences that affected their mental health, school lives and relationships, the report added.
Heng said many of the victims did not even know what transpired or what constituted harassment due to a lack of self-awareness and fear.
"Combined with the (victims') anxiety over reporting the incident, many offenders were able to continue their heinous actions unnoticed and unreprimanded.
"The school reflects society in part, and what happens in school today can no doubt also take place in society in the future," she said.
Heng urged all relevant ministries, especially the Education Ministry and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, to study the report thoroughly and take immediate action.
She said such action should establish clear guidelines and inform all levels of the education system – from the principal, teachers and school workers to students and parents – about what to do when these incidents are reported.
She also urged the Education Ministry, school authorities and parents to stand together via the "Say No to Violence" campaign aimed at establishing anti-harassment guidelines, educate students about self-protection, and ensure effective supervision by parents and teachers to prevent such incidents from happening.
"We cannot allow these offenders to prey on our children any more. After all, this is our collective responsibility as a community to be the guardians of our next generation.
"Let us be the role models that our children need, so that they can grow safely and healthily and become the leaders of Malaysia’s future," said Heng.