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What happens when teachers bully?

 | June 19, 2017

It is a sad day indeed when the educators entrusted by parents to mould the minds of their children, end up bullying them instead.



With so many people talking about the death of T Nhaveen, I decided to address the issue of bullying in schools. I thought the best way to do this was by sharing my own experience, and so I posted a status on my Facebook page last weekend.

It read:

“When my son was 10, his teacher called him ‘pondan’ for talking softly and taking extra time to copy lessons from the board. I made a complaint. Nothing was done. In the following weeks, the same teacher called my boy ‘sotong’ and ‘lembik’. What she did not know was the fact that my boy was struggling with his parent’s divorce at the time. Her bullying made him struggle even more.”

Now, I have to make it clear here that my intentions were not to pinpoint teachers as bullies, instead it was to provide a platform for an open discussion about bullying in any form that takes place in schools.

However, in a short span of time, hundreds of comments from readers streamed in, clogging my Facebook wall – all of which showed the darker side of teachers as bullies.

Here are but a few of them:

“When my elder daughter was in a primary school, there was a female teacher who picked on a soft spoken, slow learner girl, a classmate of my daughter. My girl would come home crying, complaining that her friend, Jananee was being bullied by a teacher. Apparently the teacher made Jananee stand on the chair while slapping herself with both hands, both cheeks. At that time I was the VP of the PTA (Parent Teacher Association), so I intervened. After a meeting with the headmaster and school board, the teacher was reprimanded with a warning. I also told her that if she ever bullied any of the kids and/or my daughter who reported her, then I would personally ensure that she leaves the school. After 2 months, she resigned of her own accord. She was a racist.” – Reza Putra Carlos

“My niece was nine, her teacher told her – ‘Patut la ibu kamu meninggal dunia, sebab kamu kurang ajar’ (No wonder your mom passed away, it’s because you’re so rude). This is the standard of some of our educators.” – Vasanthi Soma

“One teacher took his shoe and whacked a student. The quiet boy did not dare tell his parents. So when my son told me about it, I marched to the headmaster and related to him what happened. I heard the teacher got transferred after the incident. I think we mothers have to always set things right, not only for our kids, but for others too.” – Chan Lilian

“My Form 5 Mathematics teacher used to say that she hates seeing my face. Just because I was a quiet student, she always assumed that I do not understand what is taught. At the time, I was embarrassed, hurt and angry. Oddly though, she was always nice to others in the class. But I am glad I had friends who always stood up for me, one time they even asked her why she was picking on me. I really hope no other students have to go through similar situations. A teacher should really be better than this…” – Harkiret Singh

“My Mathematics teacher called my best friend to the front of the room, and asked her why she was hanging out with a ‘pondan’. And then the teacher continued to explain what a ‘pondan’ was, to the whole class, for a good 10 minutes. That’s the reason I was such an angry, unhappy child.” – Vale V Wong

“My girl was bullied when she was in Year 5. I call it sexual harassment because this group of boys always followed her around school and made fun of her body parts. I complained to the teachers but nothing was done. They kept saying that kids will be kids and that they were just joking. With the teachers not taking action, I felt they were also taking part in the bullying (by supporting it). I had to deal with it myself – I confronted the kids and told them that I would make a police report if they did not stop.” – Jacqueline Chuah

“I was one of those kids who loved to sit behind everyone else in class. When I was in Form Four, we had a replacement for our regular English teacher who went on maternity (leave). She always insisted I sit in front. This Puan (wife of some big-shot army officer) calmly told the class there’s no reason for a ‘campuran’ (kid of mixed parentage) to sit at the back of the class unless some ‘maksiat’ (forbidden act) was involved. Can you believe that? She even went on to say that girls like me don’t wear panties at all. It was a horrible period for me.” – Ilse Kane

“I transferred my daughter from a private kindergarten to a pre-school at a SK (public school) because many advised me to do so. They claimed exposing young kids to the school environment was good. It ended being a big mistake because the teacher shouted and screamed at the kids all the time. My daughter changed from being a happy kid to a sad kid. Of all the people, it is sad to realise that some teachers end up robbing a child of self-esteem and morale.” – Aiza Azlina Abu Bakar.

“I feel that some teachers set a bad precedent for students by saying hurtful or racists remarks. Then some of the kids will think it is ok to use such language on their peers. It starts innocently…. but where does it end?” – Anusha Arivananthan

“It is shocking that teachers can be so thoughtless, callous and childish themselves. I wonder what they are taught in Teacher Training College these days. I would be happy to give them some lessons on how genuinely showing respect earns genuine respect. There seems to be a common misconception between discipline and respect and then there’s self-respect and integrity. The thing they’ve not quite cottoned on to, is that self-discipline is far more enduring than external discipline brought about through fear or chastisement and shaming.” – Diane Jackson Mia

“Teachers are taught about child psychology at teacher’s college but some just never bother to use the knowledge. I always feel that the Education Ministry protects the teachers by transferring errant teachers when there is proof of misconduct to other schools. It’s a shame that the Education Ministry has failed to protect the interests of all the students in our country.” – Wan Ibnul Bahar.

I found these comments really disturbing. If this is what is going on inside the school gates, I fear that there are more untold stories kept locked inside the hearts of our children. How do they deal with it? And will it be detrimental to their developmental process?

Children depend on us, the adults to provide them with a safety net to learn values and the importance of self-confidence. But how do we expect them to develop into wholesome individuals if the educators entrusted by parents, end up bullying them instead?

I truly hope the Education Minister will pay attention to this very disturbing matter and take further action to safeguard our children.

Fa Abdul is an FMT columnist.

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