James Kon BORNEO BULLETIN ASIA NEWS NETWORK
As concerns grow over bullying in schools, Brunei’s Ministry of Health (MoH) is working with Ministry of Education (MoE) to address the issue through a first-of-its-kind initiative dubbed “Bully-free Brunei” which is set to be launched this year.
As a curtain-raiser to the ambitious initiative, a workshop for representatives of Parent-Teacher Association and Peer Guidance Group of primary schools was held at the MoH’s Health Promotion Centre recently.
Fourteen students and parents from six schools took part in the event.
According to a press statement issued by the Health Promotion Centre, its “Global School-Based Health Survey 2014” carried out among 2,599 students aged 13-17 years old from schools across Brunei, has found that teenagers in the country face several life-risking practices including bullying .
The survey showed that 21.1 per cent of teenagers are victims of bullying. The Department of Schools, MoE, has also conducted research and confirmed the findings of the Global School-Based Health Survey, the statement added. In an interview at the sidelines of the workshop, the head of students’ affairs under the MoE’s Department of Schools, Hajah Jeriah binti Haji Duraman said, "It’s not easy to tackle the problem of bullying. Bully victims always try to hide their problems and come up with different reasons for not attending school. They are scared of going to school.
“Traditionally, it’s always been physical bullying but with the emergence of Internet and globalisation, cyber bullying is on the rise.
“The workshop is the first step beginning with a small group. We are hoping to involve all primary and secondary schools in the initiative which aims to help our students in raising awareness on bullying. We are thankful to the MoH for the support.”
Citing a bullying case at a secondary school, she shared the experience of a child who refused to go to school as he was forced to give 5 Brunei dollars (Bt140) a day to a bully.
Norsyahmun binti Matassan, a psychologist from Health Promotion Centre, added, “The data we have collected have shown a rise in cyber bullying and it’s very difficult to tackle it as it’s mostly hidden.
“We can’t handle this issue alone and hence the need for a collaboration between the MoH, MoE and parents. It should be a collective effort to change mindsets. We must teach our kids how to stand up for themselves.”
She said there is a strong correlation between suicide and bullying which is happening outside Brunei. "Therefore, we should make the young understand that bullying is wrong. If a student faces bullying, he/she should report it to the teacher, prefect, counsellor, parents or close friends. Most schools have counsellors who can help the bully victims.
“In most bullying cases in the country, it has been found that most of the bullies come from aggressive families. Family background can trigger psychological problems.
“Victims of abuse at home may develop a natural tendency to bully colleagues at school. Peer pressure can also be another trigger. Therefore, we have to go back and seek the true values of the family institution,” she added.
During the workshop, some students recommended setting up of a hotline and a drop box at each school for victims to report their problems.