Dr. Honey Gives Anti-Bullying Talk to PETA
by: Jaymee Q. Leonen
Last February 13, 2014, Dr. Honey Carandang was invited to conduct a talk about Anti-Bullying. This event was organized by Philippine Educational Theatre Association (PETA) as a preliminary step in their vision to hold workshops and create plays in schools to help them understand children and the incidence of bullying . As Ms. Abigail had said, the child protection team is currently insufficient, and they would like to empower the child to also speak up for himself. In a nutshell, they would like to provide alternative means to support the cause against bullying, and hopefully approach the problem holistically.
Once attempted to be bullied by an oppressive system, Dr. Carandang considers this topic close to her heart after being charged with child abuse despite being a child advocate all her life. Upon recalling this incident, she described the different levels of bullying existing in our community, starting from our homes, to our schools, at the national level through our powerful politicians, and even internationally as we watch big nations pick on our very own country. Bullying can exist in many forms, ranging from actual physical harm, to verbal abuse, and even to social or relational bullying which is often more commonly found among girls. An emerging phenomenon right now is also cyber-bullying, which entails the use of the internet, especially social media to demoralize others. What qualifies bullying as such is really the intention of the bully and the feelings of the bullied. As a reaction to such dynamics, the feelings of power heighten in the bully, while feelings of terror increase in the bullied.
“At all levels, bullying is happening,” said Dr. Carandang, which is why awareness drives such as this is a crucial element in the fight against it. And children are very much affected by the rampancy of bullying in society because they are sent an implicit message that it is okay for a person in higher power to bully one with a lower position. The keyword, therefore, in bullying is power. A bully undergoes a struggle to balance power over others versus his personal power, and this will not be a problem if one’s sense of self competence is established. To Dr. Carandang, a bully has the need to overpower others because he feels powerless within.
In the presence of bullying, a system exists with the bully, bullied, and bystander as characters. In order to address the problem of bullying, there is a need to empower all these characters in order to tear down the system as a whole. How can this be done? It is important to build the sense of competence among children, provide them a safe environment in school that upholds the values of individuality and respect. Hence, it is important to foster awareness about the nature of bullying, and involve all stakeholders in preventing its occurrence. This also means that aside from empowering the children, teachers should also be empowered. They must also be aware that they themselves can be bullies, and that it is important that they become models of respect for the children. The key to putting an end to bullying is to “create circles of caring”, wherein we abandon the idea of “bata lang yan” and instead acknowledge that they too, have feelings, and that they also need to be affirmed for their achievements and not just corrected for their mistakes. Furthermore, a more consistent policy should be imposed regarding sanctions and rewards for acts for and against bullying. This will teach children their own limits in exercising power in themselves and on others. The last step is to sustain the caring community, by building on the basic needs of affiliation and respect for a wider scope of self-expression. Teachers can also build on the children’s ability to transcend the incidence of bullying through teaching forgiveness and building on the culture’s gift of faith. It is also important to teach all stakeholders to be appreciative of beauty through being mindful of what surrounds them.
At the end of the day, bullying is really a complex problem that cannot be easily combated, especially because there are other factors that come into play. One of the major concerns raised by some of the teacher-participants in the talk was the over-fatigue experienced by the teachers. In public schools, the enormous class size handled by one teacher can sometimes push her to her own limits, making it difficult for her to be a model of respect herself. Hence, aside from changing the system within schools, there also exists a call for government officials to help alleviate the difficult working conditions for teachers. It is a long shot, but the first step is awareness, and it is being addressed by talks like these. Thank you, PETA, for this first step in the battle against bullying.