Unfortunately, the prevalence of bullying in schools is not a new thing
11 February 2020| Last updated on 11 February 2020
The UAE aims to protect children by enforcing laws to protect and empower then against bullying.
Video footage of an act of bullying recently surfaced on social media in Dubai, which shows graphic details of a young student being physically and verbally assaulted.
In the 57-second clip, the bully is seen talking down to a fellow student, bringing her to tears and warning the victim not to tell anybody about the incident.
The KHDA responded to the video, which has been shared over 1,800 times on Twitter, saying it shows unacceptable behaviour. In a statement sent to ARN News, a KHDA spokesperson added that the incident is currently under investigation.
According to a statement from GEMS Education, appropriate action has been taken after the incident. A spokesperson issued the following statement, according to Gulf News, “We are aware of an earlier incident at one of our schools and can confirm that appropriate action has already been taken in accordance with our safeguarding policy.
“The school acted promptly to investigate and resolve the issue and we will continue to prioritise the safety, security, and well-being of all our students.”
Naturally, the response on social media and amongst community Facebook groups has been one of both shock and outrage as images and the original video have circulated online.
We here at ExpatWoman would prefer not to share any stills or the footage itself since they’re deemed triggering, and it's also against the law to share pictures/videos of an individual without permission in the UAE. Our thoughts are with the victim, and we hope the young student has received the appropriate care and support in the aftermath of this incident.
For now, we’ve put together a complete guide for parents on how to detect signs that their child is being bullied, and what they can do as per the KHDA and UAE laws.
What is bullying?
The UAE’s Supreme Council for Motherhood & Childhood in Abu Dhabi defines bullying in The Anti-Bullying Parent’s Guide as the use of deliberate force forms of verbal or physical abuse whether individual vs. individual or group vs. individual, it is unjust and repetitive behaviour and over time it is intended to hurt or pressure someone, where this person is unable to defend him/herself due to the unequal strength between the bully and the person getting bullied.
The guide was launched in cooperation with UNICEF, the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Department of Education and Knowledge in Abu Dhabi.
The different forms of bullying
- Verbal: Cursing, harsh criticism, name calling, spreading rumous, phone calls, and anonymous emails
- Physical: Beating, kicking, hair pulling, throwing stuff, taking others’ belongings, and hiding it
- Suggestive: Threatening, rude gestures, intentional neglection or alienation, and threats by staring
- Social: Allying against someone, persuading others to alienate someone
Signs that your child is being bullied
Sometimes you can discover that your child is being bullied, or you see an effect that is suspicious. These include, but are not limited to:
- Physical signs such as unjustified bruises, scratches or cuts, torn clothes or damaged belongings
- School-related behaviours like a lack of desire or fear of going to school, riding the school pus, low level of scholastic performance
- Psychosomatic symptoms include uncertain pain, headaches, abdominal pain, mouth ulcers
- Changes in social behaviour like not wanting to go out, not meeting with friends as often as usual
- Emotional indicators include signs of pain, unhappiness, loneliness, depression, desire to cry, stuttering, thinking of suicide
- Disturbing behaviours like nervousness and bad moods, not eating or eating too much, inability to sleep, nightmares, crying during sleep, weeting the bed, unwillingness to talk about what is happening
- Health indicators include general stress, low performance, poor resistance to infection, recurrent diseases, threat or attempted suicide
What you can do if your child is being bullied
If you suspect your child is being bullied at school, first and foremost, encourage them to discuss what happened with you, and understand that it can be difficult for a child to talk about it. Be patient.
Avoid leaving the child to fix their own situation under the argument that they should defend themselves from the bullies – this method will not work in most cases.
At the same time, don’t over-protect your child.
Listen to them with interest and empathy and try to understand what is happening without pressing or questioning them.
Do not discuss the bully’s behaviour with their parents or the bully themselves directly.
If you decide the severity of the behaviour is enough to include the school, then make sure you describe what happened to your child as accurately and as truthfully as possible.
Dubai’s KHDA encourages all schools to have a child protection policy in place, thus parents are advised to raise any incidents or concerns immediately to the school first, and if the issue is unable to be resolved, then contact the KHDA directly.
How to report bullying to the KHDA
The KHDA’s main office is in Academic City, and their office hours are from 7.30 am to 4.30 pm from Sunday to Wednesday, and 7.30 am to 2.30 pm on Thursdays (and throughout Ramadan).
You can call the KHDA directly on +971 4 364 0000 or call the toll-free number, 800 KHDA (800 5432).
The UAE also enforces a student code of conduct that students and parents are expected to follow and maintain, you can read them in full here.
About the UAE’s Child Protection Unit initiative
In extreme cases – and not necessarily related to bullying - the UAE’s MoE has a ‘Child Protection Unit’ for the benefit of students of government and private schools across the UAE.
The initiative is aimed at protecting children from all forms of harm, negligence, and abuse which they may experience at school or home and maintaining their safety regarding their physical, psychological, and educational aspects. They can be contacted via telephone using +0971 4 217 666 or email [email protected].