Babies halt bullying
A noisy school classroom may not sound like the best environment for a three-month-old baby, but the benefits of the Roots of Empathy programme are well-documented, its local co-ordinator says.
The initiative, which has been going three years now, has been in five local schools this year – Titahi Bay Intermediate, Windley, Rangikura, Tawa and Linden. A trained Roots of Empathy (ROE) instructor visits a classroom 27 times during the school year, with a parent and baby attending for nine of these lessons.
Students learn about how the baby is changing and observe the relationship between mum and child, teaching them to understand the feelings of others. Issues like smoking and shaking a baby are discussed.
The programme is funded by Ministry of Social Development and there is research to show it reduces levels of aggression among schoolchildren by raising social and emotional competence, Michelle Block from Barnardos says.
A number of schools in the region are clamouring to be part of ROE, with four more to be added to the roster in 2013.
‘‘We have 20 programmes in 16 schools here in Wellington, and there’s 57 schools across the country involved.
‘‘It’s free for them and the feed- back we’re getting from principals and teachers is very positive.
‘‘It doesn’t matter whether it’s a rural or urban school, low or high decile – the anti-social and bullying is down right across the spectrum for these schools.
‘‘What they’re seeing with the baby, and talking about later with their teachers and [ROE] instructors, is having an effect in the playground and at home.’’
Ms Block says she received feedback from one class bully who had mended his ways.
‘‘There are wonderful instances of what Roots of Empathy is doing and each year we aim to grow a little more across the country,’’ she says.
On Friday, from 9.30am till 11.30am at Pataka, there will be a celebration of the programme, hosted by Barnardos.
Creating empathy: Students are encouraged to discuss aspects of a child’s development during the regular Roots of Empathy sessions and are asked questions like ‘‘why do you think the baby is crying?’’