Bullying is a problem in Fiji. Bullying can have negative consequences for the rest of a person’s life. It isn’t just something that affects school children, it has long term affects on a society as a whole.
Youth activist Peter Waqavonovono is concerned about bullies targeting the gay, lesbian, and transsexual community. Many kids get bullied because of their sexual orientation. Others who are bullied because they are perceived to be weak are called homophobic names. This further reinforces the negative stereotypes around being LGBT. He states that this isn’t just a problem in school. Many adults are excluded or discriminated against because of their sexuality or gender as well.
Mr. Waqavonovono believes that bullying is a learned behavior. Children aren’t born disliking others because they are different. They are taught to do so by different social sources. Churches, parents, and the media can all be sources that teach children to not accept anyone different than them. Of course, these sources can also teach children to be tolerant of others, and to stand up to anyone who tries to bully others. Urban centers, especially Suva, are much more tolerant than rural areas. You find much more discrimination of women and minorities in rural areas. This also translates to bullying being more common.
Mr. Waqavonovono is also part of an anti bullying campaign. The event is normally held in August, and asks students to spend one minute considering what they can do to stop bullying. Past years have saw as many as 12,000 students pledging to do what they can to stop bullying.
Girl Burns Herself After Being Bullied
In April, 2015, Navneeta Devi poured kerosene on herself and set herself on fire. Navneeta died from 69 per cent of second degree burns. This tragic death could have very easily been prevented. Teachers are supposed to be there to teach and protect the children under their care. In this case, the teacher may have been the one doing the bullying. The victims mother, Mrs. Devi, claims that a teacher confiscated her daughters phone at a school event on the 20th. On Monday, the 23rd, her father had to go to the school and sign a complaint that stated Navneeta would receive her phone back at the end of the year. Her mother says that she didn’t attend school the next day because she was sick. Navneeta went back to school on the 25th. Her teacher called for her parents to come get her, because she was still sick. She told her parents that the teacher that confiscated her phone had read her text messages to other teachers as well as students. What was so embarrassing that she felt the need to take such drastic actions? According to the Fiji Sun, Navneeta had shared her dream to move to Liverpool, Australia. She wanted to continue her studies so she could help the family, because her father is the sole bread winner.
The principle, Minister of Education, and the Secretary for Commutations and Missions, have all either refused to comment or claimed that they haven’t heard about the incident. Navneeta’s mother has comments for the teacher that allegedly bullied her child, however.
“Ask the teacher, will she be able to give me another beautiful daughter like this? She was our only daughter and now she is no longer there just because of some bullying by a teacher. She has been part of Jasper since kindergarten.”
How Bullies Are Handled in Fiji
Many times when someone is found bullying someone in Fiji, they are suspended or expelled. The problem with this approach is that the bully simply goes to a new school with new victims. The bully should not only be monitored to ensure they don’t continue to bully others, but they should be educated about bullying as well. They need someone to work with them and teach them better outlets for their feelings to help them break this pattern of behavior. If bullies don’t get help early in life, they are likely to grow up to bully others as adults as well.
How to Stop Bullying
The best way to stop bullying is to keep it from starting in the first place. Prevention is the key to stopping bullying. This can be done by educating students about bullying. Let them know why people bully others, what they can do, and to not be bystanders. Bullies like the attention an audience gives them. If the children speak up for the one being bullied or go get an adult, this takes the fun out of bullying. Educators should also understand the signs that someone is a bully or being bullied and how to handle these situations.
Assessments should also be done to figure out how and when most bullying occurs and if the current school policies are helping. Keeping track of these things will help schools learn what works the best for their school to reduce instances of bullying.
Schools should also get the local community involved. Parents and local community members can work to help to stop bullying by setting an example of tolerance and respect for others. They should also speak up when they witness bullying and take appropriate action. If the school and community can send an unified message that bullying isn’t okay, it is much less likely to occur.
Teachers should be the front line of defense against bullying. They should have respect for all the students in the school. They should never single out a student because they are different from anyone else, and they shouldn’t let anyone else bully a student either.
Paralympic Medalist Brings Awareness to Bullying in Fiji
Illesa Delana lost his leg at the age of three in an accident. He says he was always teased in school and in his village as well. He says that bullying is the most common in primary school in Fiji. He says many children are bullied because they have a disability or because of their race. He was also excluded from many activities because of his disabilities.
Delana went on to prove them all wrong with a high jump of 1.74 meters. This is an achievement far out of reach for most people with two legs. He brought home Fiji’s first paralympic gold medal, and has been beloved by his homeland every since. He is taking his newfound popularity to speak out against bullying and to help people to understand what they can do about bullying.
It’s hard to address bullying in Fiji as a whole because Fiji has 332 islands. 110 of these islands are inhabited, and many of them don’t have access to the internet. Some of the more remote areas take days to reach by boat. So how do you reach schools all across Fiji? Suni Chandra produces radio programs for the Ministry of Education. He says that his program is a treat for the children because it’s a voice other than that of their teacher. He presents concepts and ideas in a fun manner, and has been seeing a lot of progress when he goes to visit Fiji schools.
He says “We have seen children devoting time the way we have emphasized on the radio, so that gives a good impression on us that our programs are really effective. Our students are actually uniting all the students in the class, and we have seen that when the program are there, these children don’t have any discrimination.”
Now Delana is going to participate in the radio show as well. He thinks that his accomplishment will help kids and adults as well think differently about those with disabilities. He is so well loved by the people of Fiji he has a hard time fitting in his high jump training because everyone wants to meet him. He is constantly getting requests to go to different areas of Fiji.
Delana says “Many people say it’s good for me because of my achievement in the Paralympic games, but I think it’s not that very important. I think it’s one way that will make the kids pay attention to look at an Olympic athlete to come and do that, I support that too, but I think the main thing is to give the point, the idea to them, what is anti-bullying. I’m glad also for the achievement so that it can take me to that level, and tell them the right way to go.”