Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Raising the alarm

The issue of bullying has garnered national attention following a recent viral video showcasing an incident of physical violence and harassment between students at a school, prompting swift action from the Ministry of Education (MoE) to issue an official statement strongly to denounce bullying.

In light of this, the Women and Children Abuse Investigation Unit of the Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF) is currently investigating two separate viral videos involving alleged bullying.

“It is very unfortunate that we are realising that bullying is still happening in schools,” said Clinical Psychologist and Mental Health Strategy Unit Lead at the Health Promotion Centre Nor Syahmun binti Haji Matassan.

She said that: “At the same time, the recent viral videos highlighted that there is a problem, and we still need to work on it.”

Nor Syahmun expressed this thought in her capacity as the lead of Brunei Bebas Bully (BBB) or Brunei Bully Free.

WHAT IS THE BBB INITIATIVE?

Setting a goal on creating a bully-free environment throughout Brunei, with a focus on addressing the topic one school at a time, BBB is a school-based initiative or programme that falls under the Mental Health Strategy Unit of the Health Promotion Centre, Ministry of Health that launched in mid-2018.

The psychologist shared BBB’s collaboration with the Student’s Welfare Unit under the Department of Schools at the MoE, in addition to receiving support from the RBPF when the initiative was first set up.

BBB provides targeted training workshops designed for schools, including teachers, parents, students and non-academic staff carried out on an ad hoc basis to deliver talks on managing and preventing bullying. Additionally, the initiative assists schools to organise the Brunei Bully Free Day and conduct community outreach exhibitions in public spaces. To date, 55 schools have been covered and they plan to pick up the pace.

PHOTO: FREEPIK
Clinical Psychologist and Mental Health Strategy Unit Lead at the Health Promotion Centre Nor Syahmun binti Haji Matassan. PHOTO: JAMES KON

HAVE BULLYING CASES RISEN AS OF LATE?

According to Nor Syahmun, the Brunei Darussalam Global School Health Survey 2019 showed an increase in bullying incidences in schools compared to data from 2014, as 23.7 per cent of students aged 13 to 17 in Brunei reported having experienced bullying in one or more days, whereas in 2014, the figure stood at 21.1 per cent.

Despite the relatively small increase, Nor Syahmun stressed the importance of addressing the issue promptly and preventing it from escalating, while also acknowledging that there may be a possibility of under reporting due to fear.

RECOMMENDED ACTION IN THE EVENT OF BULLYING

It’s a two-pronged answer that involves the victims of bullying and the people surrounding them. No one should have to deal with bullying alone, said the psychologist.

She believes that by saying “no, I don’t want this” or “I don’t like what you’re doing to me” can be an effective initial response when confronted by a bully.

However, it is also equally important for bystanders such as friends and classmates to intervene by informing the nearest adult such as a teacher.

“Bystanders are often scared to take action because they worry about the repercussions; whether they’ll become the next victims. (But) we need them and the community at large to know that everyone has the right to protection,” she said.

“Bystanders can stand up and not keep quiet. Say no and stop it (and) report the bullying,” she said. So what can parents of the bullied do?

According to Nor Syahmun, parents need to understand what constitutes bullying because it’s not only physical, but social, mental and in today’s day and age – digital.

“Parenting is not easy (but) parents need to be in-the-know and they need to be more alert,” she said, adding that establishing a clear line of communication with their children is a key aspect of discovering early indications of bullying.

“They need to know when their children come home with bruises. They need to understand that some instances are not ‘children playing around’. Take the matter seriously and let your children know that bullying is wrong,” she said, adding calling for the fostering kindness and understanding in children.

WHAT MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE?

Nor Syahmun acknowledges the sentiment of the public on the lack of punishment and admits that there is still room for improvement.

“Bullying is a serious offence requiring comprehensive action. It’s worth noting that the RBPF has taken steps to address the problem.

“I believe that as a nation, we can do more by working together. It is not solely the responsibility of the government; the community also plays a crucial role in combatting bullying,” said Nor Syahmun.

She believes that if everyone becomes aware of the different types of bullying and their impacts, as well as the actions that can be taken to address them, it would be a step in the right direction.

“The issue of bullying necessitates a multi-sectoral approach of prevention, management, and healing in order to effectively address the issue of bullying“, she said.

The BBB is currently finalising a booklet aimed at helping parents and teachers manage and prevent bullying, synchronising actions and establishing a unified approach among all stakeholders will be made available to the public soon, she said. – James Kon

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