SCMP Saturday, March 10, 2001

Anti-bullying drive urged as 70pc of pupils claim to be victims


A full-scale anti-bullying campaign in schools was urged yesterday after a survey found more than 70 per cent of students had suffered at the hands of other pupils and almost 95 per cent had witnessed it.
School bullying was serious and needed tackling, said Dr Dennis Wong Sing-wing, assistant professor of City University's department of applied social studies, after the study of more than 2,000 primary and secondary school pupils.
A related survey showed nearly 60 per cent of more than 900 teachers from 19 schools had witnessed students being physically or verbally bullied, or being socially excluded, but many staff felt they were unable to handle the situations.
"Teachers are aware of such problems, but many of them feel they are not competent enough to handle them," said Dr Wong.
"We are most concerned about this because bullying goes on and is aggravated if they do not do something about it." Around a third of those interviewed said their experience showed victims took revenge in reaction to bullying.
Nearly two-thirds strongly agreed that some students bullied others as revenge for being bullied themselves.
Taking out one's temper on others and seeking attention were believed to be other major reasons for bullying, Dr Wong said.
He said many teachers were not properly trained and were too overworked to have the patience to provide proper help for bullies and their victims.
Inflicting punishment was not an effective method as it merely reinforced the mistaken notion that those in authority could take advantage of their positions to intimidate the weak.
He said schools should teach students at an early age to learn to understand other people's feelings and help potential victims who were often timid, isolated or physically weak to be more assertive.
He urged the Government to provide funding for a territory-wide anti-bullying campaign with the help of trained professionals from social service agencies.
Eleven schools in the northern New Territories and 21 in Wong Tai Sin have been taking part in a pilot scheme called the Harmony School Project to combat bullying since last June. It is run by City University and funded by the Quality Education Fund.