You touch, you go: Eradicating bullying in schools

The propensity to bully exists from the wide plains of the Masai Mara to the crowded city roads of Kuala Lumpur. Animalistic prey versus predator has more to do with the survival of the fittest while motorists weaponise cars when overcome with road rage.

But in the corridors of some of our public institutions – schools; the same atavistic desire to ‘eat’ or be ‘eaten’ rears its ugly head every so often, suggesting deeper malaise, and that our education system is didactically inadequate.

Our educators must be tearing their hair figuring out how the latest news of bullying – rather the fallout, is indicative of a trend that has deep roots and simply will not go away.

The case came to light when the parents of a bullying ‘victim’ took to social media to express their dissatisfaction at the outcome of the entire incident.

The fact that the incident took place at an elite boarding school is moot, as this could be any school. The fact that the school has an illustrious reputation simply adds colour to the story.

As far as the parent was concerned, the ‘victim’ was beaten by some seniors, which resulted in physical injuries. They expected the perpetrators to be severely punished, but in the event, the school opted not to expel anybody. The dissatisfied parents threatened to take further action – including using social media, as well as possible legal recourse, so that more severe punishment was meted out.

What they chose not to divulge was that the bullied was no angel. He was caught ‘vaping’ by a prefect (a senior), which resulted in punishment. Dissatisfied, the bullied burned the prefect’s shoes and glued his laptop in retaliation. (How this was established and if it was the result of admission through coercion or otherwise, was not revealed).

This bit of subordination drew the ire of the seniors who then sorted the matter using physical violence, which resulted in injuries.

Two wrongs have now been committed, which the school principal decided was best resolved without jeopardising the future of all concerned, should anyone be kicked out of the school.

That, he thought, would have been that – only that the sister of the victim decided to turn to social media to vent her dissatisfaction with this bit of indelicate ‘diplomacy’.

The parents also lent their weight, making it as if the school was turning a blind eye to the insidious ‘tradition’ of bullying – especially where seniors victimised the entire junior forms.

About this time, news emerged of the Federal Court affirmation of financial damages imposed on a Kuala Terengganu school for a bullying incident that occurred way back in 2017, where the victim suffered hearing damage, among others.

Regardless of the facts of both cases, bullying becomes a crime of interest to the police the moment there is a physical (or even mental) element of bodily assault, and injury inflicted.

The seniors who meted out punishment on the bullying victim were wrong – for physical assault. The bullying victim was presumably wrong – for allegedly exacting revenge on the ‘legal’ authority that caught him vaping by an act of arson and vandalism. So, those involved must go through the entire legal rigmarole, in order for justice to prevail. Since society and school are hardly the epitome of perfect administration, the principal in this case chose a solution he thought was the best under the circumstances.

Regardless of this fallout, the fact remains – how to overcome bullying in schools.

Often, one solution is to confront the devil by bringing it to the public space. Lay it out – bare. Talk, discuss, and create awareness. Maybe BULLYING 101 should be a subject worthy of being slotted 20 minutes in the school’s weekly timetable. There will be enough ‘victims’ and ‘do-gooders’ who can contribute to creating the ‘perfect’ module.

Salutary lessons should be learnt, that a crime is a crime. ‘Do the crime, serve the time’ should be the watchword. (But life is more complicated than that, so we choose to muddle on, thus this price we pay!)

In the meantime, the genie has escaped through the spout on this one, and there will be no respite until the social media stink dissipates.

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer and do not necessarily represent that of Twentytwo13.

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