Parents can ease pain of bullying

By Zainab Al Nasseri — MUSCAT: Dec 13: Oman has seen an alarming increase in the number of bullying cases in the last five years, especially among schoolchildren, according to officials from Ministry of Social Development (MoSD). ‘Bullying and Unethical Practices Inside Schools’ was the focus of a discussion organised by Majlis Ash’shura and attended by representatives from MoSD, Health, Religious Affairs, Royal Oman Police (ROP), Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) and Public Prosecution.
Khlaid al Farei, Head of the Education and Scientific Research Committee in Majlis Ash’shura, said the social media networks have “made it easier to indulge in bullying”. While requesting parents to ask their kids about their day-to-day activities, he asked them to take children into confidence so that they can open up about their fears. “It is important that the children share their diaries with parents.” If parents find any signs that their children are being bullied, they should immediately inform the school administration, said Al Farei.
Dr Amal Ambusaidia, a psychiatrist consultant at SQU Hospital, said poverty and social discrimination may be the reason for bullying, besides other reasons such as “electronic games focused on crushing the enemy using all means, and over- protection of children”.
Bullying in schools has “gone beyond verbal harm to physical harassment”, and happens from ‘students to students’, ‘students to teachers’, ‘parents to teachers’ and ‘teachers to students’.
“A student who is not feeling secure, not social and who moves from one school to another may be an easy target for bullying,” she said, while stressing the need to strengthen relations between parents and children, and frame clear rules at school. Dr Muna al Shukaili, a psychiatrist physician at Al Massara Hospital, said bullying is mostly committed by people close to children such as family, friends, neighbours, babysitters and school mates. The short-term impact of bullying on children are: fear, feeling of helplessness, weakness and shame, anger, sadness and contemplating suicide. “Parents should observe closely to detect any signs of bullying so that an early solution can be found.” Since violence, hidden or obvious, is a common feature of bullying, it should be observed, especially in orphans, who may suffer from lack of care and family support, according to Adnan al Farsi, Director Assistant at Guiding and Consultancy Department at MoSD.
Some schools have reservations over bullying cases. They don’t admit such incidents are taking place in the campus because they feel it could mar the school’s reputation. “By remaining mum, they are letting the problem grow bigger,” he said, adding that some bullying cases require “urgent and immediate legal interference”.
The Ministry of Education is making all efforts to protect children by educating them inside and outside of schools. Dr Radhyia al Habsi, Director Assistant at the min      istry, said there are training courses on how to deal with bullying cases in a professional manner.
“The ministry works hard to help the students’ guidance teams and encourage fruitful communication between the school and the homes.”
Brigadier Rashid al Badi, from ROP, noted that offences committed by those up to nine years of age are not punishable. “The number of crimes committed by juveniles in the last five years is 2,169, accounting for two per cent of the total number of crimes (116,312).”
Studies have indicated families are responsible for a child’s behaviour, followed by classmates and the media. “Educating children about different issues helps them prepare better for certain situations,” he said.
Al Badi said any type of harassment, verbal, physical or psychological, is punishable. Victims or their relatives can report incidents of bullying on free helpline 80077444 or file a complaint with the police. Bader al Dughaisi, Director of Religious Research Department at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, said “ethical education should start home”. “Telling lies in front of children makes them lose trust in their parents,” he said. He wondered why some teachers and schools refuse to report bullying cases.
According to Article 20 of child law, any action that causes harm to children is punishable with imprisonment for three months and can go up to three years.