Childrens’ rights NGO Advocating for the Rights of Children (ARC) on Saturday launched a campaign against bullying and discrimination titled ‘Respect’.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of these issues among children in order to equip them to respect both themselves and others’ boundaries and surroundings.
The ‘Respect’ campaign was initiated as a result of a survey conducted by the NGO in 2012, which “showed alarming statistics of bullying in schools”.
Under the campaign, a number of sessions will focus on anti-bullying and anti-discrimination with the primary aim of supporting students, teachers, and parents to promote positive and respectful behaviour and to create safe and healthy environments for children.
Launching the campaign this weekend, ARC held events at the Children’s Shelter and Muhyidheen School in the island of Villingili. The campaign includes a week-long programme consisting of material to teach the children how to acknowledge and accept differences between themselves and others.
The programme will help participants understand the term ‘bullying’, to identify bullying behaviour, and to recognise the emotional and psychological impacts of such behaviour. Children taking part will also learn the difference between assertive, aggressive, and passive communication and will learn to use assertive communication to stop or prevent bullying.
The programme involves both indoor and outdoor activities over the span of a week. Participants in the first of the series of programmes include 58 students from Grade 1 at Muhyidheen School and children ages 6 and over from the Children’s Shelter.
‘Respect’ will be conducted by foreign consultant Karen Boswell and ARC’s Senior Consultant on Education Fathimath Nahidh Shakir.
A 2012 survey conducted across grades 6 and 7 in all primary schools in capital city Malé, Hulhumalé, and Villingili found that 80 percent of students claimed to have seen another student being bullied or discriminated against, while 61 percent of the participants revealed that they had been bullied themselves.
Of those interviewed, 17 percent admitted to having bullied other students.
Regarding types of bullying, 15 percent noted being physically hurt, 28 percent had rumours and lies spread about them, and 32 percent reported having been teased.
Participants reported that 10 percent of bullying incidents took place near the toilets in school, 14 percent in school playgrounds, 16 percent in corridors, and 37 per cent in classrooms.
Almost half of the bullying victims – 45 percent – did not report bullying incidents to anyone. Of those who did, 49 percent of complaints were made to teachers and 45 percent to parents.
Those surveyed suggested that physical appearance was the primary reason for bullying – 36 percent giving this explanation – while personality, academic performance, and differences of opinion were cited as the next most prominent causes.
The report revealed that children felt bullying could be prevented by anti-bullying policies (19 percent), increased adult supervision (17 percent), and raising awareness of the issue (16 percent).
The ‘Respect’ campaign will stretch through out 2014 and will be held in various preschools, primary, and secondary schools.