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A ‘big sister’ helps students cope with bullying in Malaysia

© UNICEF Malaysia/2009/Tee
At seminars and workshops organized by her high school as part of the Safe Schools Programme in Malaysia, Dashenee Huthamaputhiran, 17, learned that bullying can take many forms, including psychological abuse such as teasing, name-calling, intimidation and exclusion.
By Tee Shiao Eek  

In the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – a landmark international agreement on the basic human rights of all children – UNICEF is featuring a series of stories about progress made and challenges that remain. Here is one of those stories.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, 26 October 2009 – As Head Prefect, Dashenee Huthamaputhiran, 17, is a friendly face around Convent Sentul High School, offering advice to students who break school rules or lending a helping hand to those in trouble.

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If she spots any students teasing, harassing or bullying each other, she steps in to help resolve the situation or bring the problem to the attention of her teachers.

Partnership programme
These are among the skills that Dashenee learned through the Safe Schools Programme, which is supported by UNICEF in partnership with Malaysia’s Ministry of Education and HELP University College.

“The most important thing that I learned from the bullying programme is the different ways some students used to bully other students. For example, I never knew that calling people names is a form of bullying,” Dashenee admitted.

As a prefect, Dashenee applied what she learned from the programme and used it to help her friends.

‘Cyber-bullying’ is prevalent
Bullying goes beyond physical abuse; it can also take the form of psychological abuse, including teasing, intimidation and exclusion.

Today, technology has created new opportunities for bullying, as more young people depend on mobile phones and the Internet for communication and entertainment.

Through commonly used channels such as blogs, chat rooms, file-sharing applications, social networking sites and mobile phone messages, children and young people can be threatened, excluded from activities or humiliated by having misleading messages or photos about them posted online.

Media reports in Malaysia suggest that such ‘cyber-bullying’ is prevalent among children and young people here. Still, much of it could be under-reported, as few people are aware that it is a serious problem.

A safe environment for students
The Safe Schools Programme aims to prevent the occurrence of violence and abuse – especially bullying among students – in the learning environment. Through seminars and workshops organized at their school, Dashenee and her schoolmates have been empowered to cope with bullying, and to prevent it from going too far.

“A safe learning place is every child’s right,” said UNICEF Representative in Malaysia and Special Representative to Brunei Youssouf Oomar.

© UNICEF Malaysia/2009/Tee
Technology has provided new opportunities for ‘cyber-bullying’, as more young people depend on mobile phones and the Internet for communication and entertainment. The Safe Schools Programme in Malaysia aims to ensure every child’s right to be protected from abuse and to use technology safely.

“One of the ways to make the learning place safe is by addressing the issue of bullying,” he added. “UNICEF is committed to addressing this, working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education and HELP University College, because we want to make sure that children and teachers are properly equipped to address and prevent bullying.”

The Safe Schools initiative also includes a teachers’ manual and training activities to equip teachers with intervention skills to manage bullying among students.

Empowered to help
With more knowledge about bullying, Dashenee has been able to help a 14-year-old girl at school who is a victim of cyber-bullying through a popular social networking site. Using her peer-to-peer coaching skills, she intervened and encouraged the girl to seek help from the school counsellor.

“I treat every student in this school as my sister, and I try to help them in any way I can,” said Dashenee.

Guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF works with its partners in Malaysia and around the world to ensure that every child – and every student – can live free of fear and violence.




29 September 2009: UNICEF’s Tee Shiao Eek reports on how Malaysian schoolchildren are learning to help their peers cope with bullying.
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