The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) is concerned about cases of alleged bullying in schools recently highlighted in the media which should have our current child protection and welfare policies reviewed and effectively implemented by all stakeholders.
The latest incident that was captured on video and shared on
social media during the weekend leaves the viewer disturbed. It has sparked discussions
and online posts either sympathizing with the victim or directing anger, hate
and resentment towards the bullies which perpetuates the cycle of
bullying. The CCF encourages citizens of
Fiji that we should all think before we react through what we say or do. We remind all Fijians that although we have a
freedom of expression, these rights come with responsibilities to ensure that
we respect the rights of others as well.
Bullying affects everyone in different ways. For the person
being bullied it is feeling hopeless, stuck, rejected, unsafe, afraid, being
confused and stressed. Those witnessing
the act may feel angry, fearful, guilty or sad.
If we do not stop or challenge bullying, we are encouraging spaces where
bullying is accepted and everyone feels powerless to stop it. The CCF emphasizes that the toleration by
some on archaic practices or ideas of ‘rites of passage’ or ‘accepted forms of
disciplining children’ to justify such acts must stop now especially in school
environments as these are acts of violence. These are acts that are sending
wrong messages to children that will perpetuate violence as being acceptable in
the guise of other ideas or concepts.
Students need to feel safe in their learning
environments. They need to be treated
respectfully and fairly. Each child has
the right to be free from mental, physical and emotional stress while accessing
his/her right to education. Fiji, during
its 3rd Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in November 2019 accepted
the recommendation to intensify efforts to protect the rights of children and
women, including in the education and health sectors. Fiji had ratified the United Nations
Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1993 hence Fiji’s obligation is to
protect children against any form of abuse or violence.