Education in Kindness to Help End Bullying and Violence in Schools

Young Thais joined the Kindness Leaders Conference to advocate for kindness and empathy in education.

Monthalee Songphatanayothin
Zoom meeting where 11 people from different genders and ages joined.
UNICEF Thailand
25 February 2021

A recent survey conducted by the Network of Legal Advocates for Children and Youth found that as many as 92 percent of schoolchildren in Thailand have been subjected to physical or psychological abuse in school and 13 percent have clinical depression from bullying, with Thailand having one of the highest rates of bullying in the world. Bullying can range from physical, verbal and cyber abuse, including hitting, name calling and harassment on social media.

As part of a continuous effort to raise awareness about bullying and violence in schools and challenge the culture of violence in classrooms and communities, 16 delegates from UNICEF Thailand’s youth network were selected to join the Kindness Leaders Conference along with 150 other student leaders from across Southeast Asia to become advocates for kindness and empathy in education. The 16 young leaders were selected based on their leadership and activism for child rights in their schools and communities.

In the lead up to the conference, an induction meeting with Dr. Sombat Tapanya, a leading clinical psychologist and President of the Peace Culture Foundation, was organized for the young leaders to learn more about the situation of bullying and violence in schools in Thailand and ways young people can play a role in creating a positive environment in their communities. The session covered tips on how to respond and stand up for others when witnessing bullying. Students also joined in, reflecting on their experiences with bullying and how to make a difference in the lives of others.

Choi Siwon, UNICEF Korea's Special Representative, participated in the Kindness Leaders Conference via Zoom meeting.
Choi Si-won, Super Junior member and UNICEF Regional Ambassador, on a Zoom call with participants for the inaugural Kindness Leaders Conference.

The event was followed by the exciting Kindness Leaders Conference, a three-day virtual conference led by UNICEF Malaysia. The conference was developed as a continuation of Malaysia’s successful #StandTogether National Kindness Week, founded by NGO and CSO partners and supported by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF Malaysia. The campaign aims to help address violence against children by empowering students to practice kindness and empathy. Instead of fighting back against bullying with punishment, kindness and empathy is encouraged as a new norm of culture.

Kindness Leaders Conference participants from different countries
Bullying and Violence Can Happen to Anyone but Can Be Stopped by Everyone.

In an era when hateful comments and divisive rhetoric are on the rise, the Kindness Leaders Conference aims to empower young people to be kind and empathetic in solving society’s conflicts and to promote shared values and understanding to end bullying and other forms of violence against children. During the conference, young people learned about kindness and empathy in leadership, tips on self-care and mindfulness, youth advocacy and the difference between empathy and corporal punishment. Lessons learned in the conference can be integrated into community and school programmes to promote safe and inclusive school environments.

Activity plan developed by the Thai Kindness Leaders
Activity plan developed by the Thai Kindness Leaders.

Young representatives from Thailand presented an idea for a pilot project raising awareness about the consequences of bullying and the importance of empathy and self-care through social media and offline events, such as school concerts, in large schools throughout Thailand. To prevent the vicious cycle of bullying, the young leaders emphasized the importance of promoting activities around self-worth, understanding healthy coping mechanisms and recognizing when to report bullying and seek help from others. The conference is just the start of a new movement, with young people equipped with the knowledge and resources to become Kindness Leaders in their respective countries, work together across borders to organize their own kindness and empathy movements and be the voice of change in their communities.