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