By P Ramasamy
The untimely death of T Nhaveen, a victim of vicious assault, has saddened the whole country. His friend, T Previin, who was also assaulted, is still recovering after surgery at the Penang Hospital.
This sad episode would not have happened if parents, teachers and school authorities had paid attention to the very rampant occurrences of bullying in schools among teenagers.
His classmates bullied Nhaveen for some years before he was viciously assaulted last Friday night and admitted to hospital with serious head injuries. He was in a coma for a few days before he succumbed to injuries yesterday.
The whole nation is mourning the death of Nhaveen, a teenager who had harboured ambitions of becoming a music composer like his hero in South India, AR Rahman.
Even Rahman had tweeted wishes for Nhaveen’s speedy recovery.
Nhaveen’s mother, D Shanti, is a single mother. She was informed about the bullying and did her part by going to the school to warn those behind it.
Nhaveen was singled out simply because he was not an aggressive individual. He was considered effeminate, and they found it easier to bully him because he appeared timid.
There were attempts to enrol him in a secret society (gang) but Nhaveen rebuffed these as he did not want to be part of it. Nonetheless, the bullying continued for a few years, and when he left the school after his SPM, he was glad that he would not have to put up with the bullies again. How wrong he was!
Nhaveen found out that he could not really escape from their intimidation and attacks. They continued to taunt and ridicule him until the fateful day when they vented their fury against him leading to his hospitalisation and, ultimately, his death.
As a single mother, Shanti could not do much. Perhaps on one or two occasions, Nhaveen might have informed her about the bullying, but later on he did not want his mother to be involved. He feared that the situation might get worse for him and his family.
Some school teachers might have known about Nhaveen’s suffering, but no one tried to stop this “sickness” among the teenagers.
The headmaster, senior assistant and disciplinary master failed in their duties as far as Nhaveen’s case is concerned. Together, they could have prevented this sad episode or at least lodged police reports.
The Penang state education department, under the purview of the federal government, has failed miserably in addressing the rampant rise of gangsterism leading to bullying in schools.
I am not sure whether the department issues directives and instructions to schools to curb the rise of schoolchildren getting involved in gang-related activities. If it had, then these might not have been effective in addressing the problem.
I am not putting the entire blame on department officials, for supervision of students is the joint responsibility of parents, teachers and school authorities. In this respect, the parental role is much more significant.
Nhaveen’s case is an extreme case of bullying resulting in death and despair to his family. His mother might not really recover from such a sad episode. From the day Nhaveen was admitted to the hospital, she has been sobbing uncontrollably.
But the whole episode surrounding Nhaveen is the tip of the iceberg. Of late, bullying among teenagers has become a national problem. Occasionally, we hear of students being ragged in universities and colleges. Even teachers assaulting young children has become very common.
The question before us is: How are we going to address the related problems of gangsterism and bullying in schools when we have a system of education that does not prioritise the social, psychological and emotional well-being of students at all levels?
P Ramasamy is deputy chief minister II of Penang.
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