Beating bullies proves tough for UAE kids
Unruly conduct among pupils in the UAE is a growing concern, reports Ismail Sebugwaawo...
Bullying, whether physical or verbal, can make school life a misery.
The issue of bullying among children in the UAE has been thrown into the limelight in recent weeks following a schoolyard attack on 11-year-old girl Loujain Hussein, who suffered a brain haemorrhage and was left in a coma.
A group of younger boys repeatedly kicked and punched Loujain during a lunch break. She suffered severe head injuries and was in a coma for three weeks at Sheikh Khalifa Hospital in Abu Dhabi.
As many parents suggest schools should be held responsible for such incidents, teachers, administrators and psychiatrics believe all parties need to join forces to eradicate such behaviour. Dr Mohammed S Tahir, head of psychiatry at Health Call, Dubai Healthcare City, told 7DAYS that bullying was common among pupils in UAE schools.
“Children who are abused by their families and those with mental-health problems are the common targets of bullying,” he said.
He said such children would fear reporting verbal or physical bullying by other students to parents or teachers. “It becomes more dangerous when parents or teachers are unaware that a child is
“The traumatic effects of bullying among children can last a long time and become a permanent disability,” said Dr Tahir. He said parents need to be open with their children so kids feel they can speak freely if they are being targeted by bullies.
“Teachers also need to train children to be confident so that they can speak to them when bullied by others,” said Tahir, adding that teachers and authorities should put in place policies that punish such acts.
Dr Mugheer Khamis Al Khalil, director of Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), downplayed the issue of bullying. He said: “The level of bullying in Abu Dhabi schools is one of the lowest in the world.”
He said there are clear policies and procedures to deal with bullying. ADEC says any school failing to monitor and inspect safety and security on school premises faces warnings, fines and closure.
Maqsood, the head of English at Al Jazeera Public School in Abu Dhabi said bullying is not common among students in her school and she believes parents should be blamed for some of the actions of their children.
“Sometimes children learn violent behaviour from home, either from their elder siblings or from watching action films on television,” said Maqsood, adding that kids then try to practice what they see by attacking other pupils. She said it was the responsibility of parents to monitor the behaviour of their children at home and screen what they are watching on television.
“There is also a need for more staff in schools to monitor children,” added Maqsood.
“Inspectors should be present in all areas of the school, including playgrounds and shared common areas.”
Asma Anshan, a kindergarten teacher in Abu Dhabi, said: “I teach small children and it’s common that they bully each other.” She said teachers have to be alert at all times to detect bullying.
“Poor communication between teachers and parents in some schools can result in bad behaviour among children.” A teacher at a private school in Abu
Dhabi said that sometimes polices in schools prevent the teachers from their moral duty to ensure that children are well-disciplined.
“Policies hold teachers accountable for their behaviours more than they do students for their misbehaviour,” he said.
“Some parents also don’t want to listen to what teachers tell them about their children’s behaviour in class,” he added. However, parents issued concern about safety on school premises.
Mustafah Abdul Salam, a Sudanese expat, said his seven-year-old boy told him that a student kicked him one day while he was playing in the playground of his school
in Abu Dhabi. “Schools should intensify monitoring
and supervision of children especially when playing so they avoid attacking each other,” he said.
“The issue of safety should be an integral part of every school’s policy and programmes should be held to help promote children’s safety,” said Salam.
PROBE INTO ATTACK ON PUPIL
A committee has been formed to investigate a case of alleged bullying in Sharjah, which resulted in a boy being hospitalised. Eight-year-old Abdullah Mohammad Mansur claims a group of older pupils started pushing him near the school gate and it fell on top of him.
An official at Sharjah Education Zone (SEZ) said the panel had been formed to investigate if this was a case of bullying. The committee met with Mansur earlier this week to find out what happened. SEZ has also asked the school to repair the gate and not allow students near it. Mansur has now been discharged from Royal Hospital in Sharjah and is recovering at home.