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Chil­dren must be taught about other lives and how they are lived in or­der to de­velop love for the other

New Straits Times - - OPINION -

BUL­LY­ING hurts. It hurts in many vis­i­ble and in­vis­i­ble ways. And the pain stays with the vic­tim for the rest of his life. De­pres­sion, men­tal ail­ments and sui­cides are of­ten as­so­ci­ated with the ill ef­fects that re­sult from bul­ly­ing. This we know only too well. But are we do­ing enough to end bul­ly­ing, es­pe­cially in our schools? Not from the looks of the sta­tis­tics this news­pa­per has re­ported pe­ri­od­i­cally when this mon­ster of a prob­lem makes the head­line. The prob­lem must be re­ally bad in­deed, oth­er­wise why would a 10-year-old boy from Seko­lah Ren­dah Is­lam Hira’ in Klang in­vent an Anti-Bully No­ti­fi­ca­tion Sys­tem? It was our page 10 story on Satur­day that told of a sib­ling’s re­sponse to his sis­ter’s cry for help. What is more telling is this: Umar Wafi Zulka­fri is not just re­spond­ing to his sis­ter Iman Hasya’s pain, but to cries of the vic­tims of bul­ly­ing in the rest of the coun­try. If this doesn’t wake us up, noth­ing else will.

Pic­ture this damn­ing data. Be­tween 2012 and 2015 — a span of just four years — there were 14,000 cases of bul­ly­ing, most of them in­volv­ing phys­i­cal bul­ly­ing. In 2015, there were 2,968 cases re­ported ac­cord­ing to Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry’s sta­tis­tics. The num­ber rose steeply the fol­low­ing year to 3,448. The sta­tis­tics for 2017 were even more de­press­ing. In Au­gust of that year, a Year One pupil of a board­ing school in Kapit, Sarawak died after be­ing beaten by his Year Six se­niors. Girls, too, ap­pear to not want to be out­done in bul­ly­ing by boys. In July 2017, a girl in Ku­nak, Sabah, was beaten by a group of girls in the school com­pound. No won­der the United Na­tions In­ter­na­tional Chil­dren's Emer­gency Fund’s global sur­vey on school bul­ly­ing con­ducted last year re­vealed that seven out of 10 Malaysian chil­dren wor­ried a lot about be­ing bul­lied. The same Unicef sur­vey re­vealed 80 per cent of our pri­mary school pupils of hav­ing been bul­lied. Cy­ber bul­ly­ing data are equally damn­ing. Ac­cord­ing to Cy­ber­Se­cu­rity Malaysia, in just four months of 2017, there were 221 cy­ber harass­ment cases recorded. Ap­palling in­deed.

Is there no way out of this peren­nial prob­lem? Are Malaysians des­tined to be a na­tion of bul­lies and vic­tims of bul­lies? Not if par­ents — the first teach­ers in their chil­dren’s life — teach them em­pa­thy and re­spect for an­other’s space. And love for read­ing, too. Be­cause it is in books that these young minds will learn of other worlds and other lives, and how to ap­pre­ci­ate other ways of liv­ing. Mar­tial arts too can do them plenty of good in keep­ing bul­lies at bay. Schools too must be ready and will­ing to cre­ate a cul­ture of love among pupils. If com­pas­sion is not nur­tured at home, it can at least be taught at school. Ex­perts say the cul­ture of bul­ly­ing can­not be leg­is­lated away. We agree. Law has its place, but only when oth­ers fail. The panacea is else­where. Love for an­other can only bloom at home and schools.

Umar Wafi Zulka­fri is not just re­spond­ing to his sis­ter Iman Hasya’s pain, but to cries of the vic­tims of bul­ly­ing in the rest of the coun­try.

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