In an attempt to stamp out the behaviour, schools across Dubai are implementing a variety of strategies from the grassroots to the innovative. According to the National bullying behaviour among school children in the UAE is on the rise, and schools are increasingly using a variety of mechanisms to keep it at bay. At Al Mushrif’s Private School the anti-bullying council promotes inclusion and identifies any behaviours which might be associated with bullying or being bullied. Afra a 10 year old student at the school says, “we have this bench and whenever anybody like, they’re sad or something, they sit on this bench and one of the anti-bullying people comes and they let them be friends and fix the problem." Another strategy is to keep students busy at break-times, says Emma Shanahan, the school’s principal, "one of our key priorities this year is to have very active and positive playtimes for everyone. So we’ve invested a lot of money and time in organising resources – there’s more staff on duty to engage children in lots of different physical activities." “There are more adults there who can coordinate play and we’ve got our anti-bullying council and we’ve got play leaders as well in Year 6," says Shanahan.
She goes on to say, “we really care about one another here at Al Mushrif and that’s very evident in what we say and what we do."
"The school’s behavioural policy is centred around teaching the four Cs – courtesy, cooperation, common sense and consideration. It’s quite easy for everyone to remember, and actually everyone is demonstrating that."
At Taaleem’s Greenfield Community School, in the Green Community, the worry for principal Andrew Green is cyber-bullying.
“What we tend to see more nowadays is bullying in cyberspace, with messages posted on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram,” he says.
“Unlike other forms of bullying, it is very difficult to spot because teachers only see a child with their mobile phone. In most cases schools are alerted to an incident only after it has been posted online."
While physical bullying remains a rarity in the school, staff report at least one incidence of bullying, most of which is either psychological or verbal each week.
Andrew Wood says, “the natural tendency for parents of children being bullied is to deal with the issue themselves, but I try to advise them that it’s better for their child to learn to resolve it on their own."
“Educators that state that bullying does not exist in their schools are deluded,” said Clive Pierrepont, Taaleem’s director of communications.
“Taaleem schools all have policies in place that relate to bullying based on zero tolerance. We have regular, age appropriate, anti-bullying campaigns in our schools. These age-targeted campaigns begin by creating an unequivocal awareness of what bullying behaviour is,” he said.
In addition, Taaleem does not allow social media during school time and is working with XRayData an Irish company to develop software which monitors social media and blocks offensive or bullying messages and alerts parents immediately to their content.