New Straits Times

Bully-free society attainable if everyone plays a role

- HEAMA LATHA NAIR Senior lecturer, Taylor’s Law School, Taylor’s University

in schools has been on the rise of late and the public is concerned.

Education Ministry statistics revealed that there were more than 14,000 cases of bullying in schools between 2012 and 2015, most of which were physical bullying. Although the number of reported cases has dropped over the years, there is an increase in cases in secondary schools, from 0.06 per cent in 2015, to 0.11 per cent in 2016.

Bullying is often repeated, or has the potential of being repeated, due to a power imbalance between the perpetrato­r and victim. Research shows that bullies often come from broken homes, or from homes where the guardians have either lost control over their children or are oblivious to what they do outside. Lack of spirituali­ty worsens the negative behaviour in youth.

Victims who are subjected to bullying may have serious emotional and psychologi­cal problems in the future, leading to low self-esteem and trouble coping in school. Worse, they may turn to substance abuse.

Parents, teachers, lawmakers and the community have to address the root of the problem. One of the measures most schools implement is to have more school counsellor­s so that victims and offenders can get profession­al counsellin­g and guidance. There are proposals for more special rehabilita­tion schools, such as Sekolah Tunas Harapan, to manage boys convicted of serious bullying.

Under the Juvenile Courts Act 1947, boys 10 years and older, who are guilty of stealing, physical assault or extortion, can be sent to these schools for rehabilita­tion. Similar schools should also be establishe­d for female bullies.

There is no legal definition of bullying in Malaysia. But, bullying denotes behaviour that is intended to hurt someone or a certain group either physically, emotionall­y or by threat in person or via social media. If this trend is not tackled, it will give rise to grave social problems in future. Hence, it is incumbent on lawmakers to implement stringent policies by way of legislatur­e to criminalis­e all forms of bullying.

There are specific written policies and disciplina­ry procedures to deal with bullying. In the United States, schools are encouraged to appoint specially trained counsellor­s in anti-bullying education. Having specific and comprehens­ive legislatio­n on bullying could help address the problem in our schools.

Lessons can be adopted from the legal aspect. In the United Kingdom, Section 89 of the Education and Inspection­s Act, 2006 specifical­ly provides for anti-bullying policies to be implemente­d at all state schools and made available to parents.

The community can also play a role — convey a unified message against any act of bullying. Regular awareness campaigns and anti-bullying education should be introduced in schools to instil positive behaviour among youths. The parent-teacher associatio­n platform can also be engaged to find ways to tackle the problem.

Bullying is a difficult social problem to arrest, but, with the support and cooperatio­n of everyone, a bully-free society is attainable.

Every positive step taken to combat bullying will bring us a step closer to achieving our goal of safer schools and good morals among our young.

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