Building confidence to take on bullying

Junior high school students in West Papua learn life skills for the future

Yuanita Marini Nagel, Adolescent Development Officer
Refaldo spent his free time outside of school
UNICEF/2020/Mohamad Saroni
11 November 2020

SORONG, Indonesia – As grey clouds drift overhead, 13-year-old Refaldo sits outside his family’s farm and looks out at the cows roaming in the distance. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, he used to divide his time between school and helping his parents to plant and grow vegetables in the fields behind their home.  

But since his school closed in March, he spends less time interacting with friends and teachers, and more time doing assignments on his own. He misses the support of his teachers. 

“I think the school needs to reopen soon,” he said. 

Refaldo lives in Sorong with his parents and his two older siblings. While at home, he has been learning remotely through a WhatsApp group led by his teachers and an educational radio programme supported by UNICEF and a local partner. With so many distractions around him at his house, he appreciates that the lessons keep him focused on his schoolwork. 

“I’m glad we have the radio programme,” he said. “Otherwise I would not be able to organise my study time well.”  

Refaldo studies at home.
UNICEF/2020/Mohamad Saroni
Refaldo studies at home.

Refaldo misses seeing his friends and being able to do group work together in class. But while he hopes to return to school, he admits that he and his friends often struggled to deal with bullying, which was the cause of most of their problems. 

It started when a student from another class approached his friend and began asking him to buy food or other items with his own money. His friend refused and considered fighting back. Refaldo was caught in between, unsure of how to resolve the issue without resorting to violence. 

To support Refaldo and other young people through the difficult decisions they need to make in their personal lives, UNICEF started the life skills education programme in 10 primary and 12 junior secondary schools in Sorong. The programme began in January and has continued during the pandemic through the educational radio broadcasts, providing messaging and tips to students on what they can do to stop bullying. 

For Refaldo, the topics on analysis and problem solving were the most interesting because they taught him to make better decisions when confronted with bullying and peer pressure. By taking part in discussions and brainstorming activities, he learned how to better navigate the risks that he faced. 

“I used to hesitate when my friends would pressure me to let them copy my homework, but now I just say no and ask them why they don’t want to do their own work,” he said. While his friends initially got angry with him, they eventually came back and played with him again. 

Refaldo poses for a photograph
UNICEF/2020/Mohamad Saroni
Refaldo poses for a photograph at his home in Sorong, Indonesia.

Refaldo says the most significant change he has seen as a result of the programme is his growing confidence.  

“I think that since I learned about myself, my strengths and this problem-solving technique, I have become more confident,” he said. “I think this will help me when we all go back to school again.” 

That starts with being able to return to school to continue his studies. While he enjoys helping his family on their farm in the afternoons, he isn’t sure that he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. Instead, he hopes to become a teacher. 

“My teachers are very nice to me, and they always help me,” he said. That's why I want to be a teacher.”  

Refaldo is one of 4,480 junior high school students participating in UNICEF’s project “Supporting Girls to Thrive in Indonesia” which works to increase retention, improve learning outcomes and protect students from violence in schools. The project targets students in primary and junior secondary schools in Sorong, West Papua province. It supports a multi-faceted school-based programme that brings together protection, education, empowerment and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) elements to promote changes to social norms and an overall positive learning environment.