Breaking News

Anti-Bullying Campaign Changing Culture at “Martin’s”

Anti-Bullying Campaign Changing Culture at “Martin’s”
May 24
16:39 2019

By Marion Ali –

Bullying has become such an ingrained culture in Belize, that it is perhaps seen as a natural part of life, an everyday occurrence where one party enjoys superiority while the other feels humiliated, oppressed, even terrorized. And the culture spans across domains; it is prevalent in the home, commonplace on social media, and present in the workplace and classroom. But the administration of one primary school in Belize has sought out to turn that culture around on their compound and to make better citizens out of the students who occupy its classrooms.


Principal of Saint Martin de Porres Primary School, Anne Palacio shared with the Reporter that bullying had become such a problematic issue in the first four months of this year at the school – from the Lower Division to the Upper and everything in between – that the school’s administration came up with an intervention strategy to actively incorporate an anti-bullying campaign as almost a part of the school’s curriculum. And what better month to kick start such a program, they thought, than the month of May – dedicated to Mary, the Mother of Jesus – to symbolically emulate the nurturing qualities of a mother, and also to coincide with the school’s education policy which takes effect this month.

Each Monday at the start of the school’s assembly, St Martin’s (as it is referred to for short) presents a guest speaker who speaks about the effects of bullying on the lives of the victims. It promotes anti-bullying through drama, poetry, and song. Video tapes showing how bullying affects victims are also shown in the classroom to drive home the message to the children that bullying is not a good trait, and is not to be tolerated. Lessons are also integrated into Social Studies, Language Arts, and Science classes, and if that falls short, then the school’s counselling department takes on the rest.

“Most bullies are insecure. Most bullies defend themselves by being a bully because they’re afraid to be bullied! They will tell you that. We try to put the ball in their park and say suppose that was you sister, your cousin, your mom, or you? This is why we have so much heartlessness in the streets right now, because nobody has any empathy anymore. We have children like that, but we are looking at the alternative. We don’t want children who hurt others become adults who hurt adults,” the school principal said candidly.

An approach that the school has applied is reverse psychology, where the children who are deemed to be bullies are assigned roles as “anti-bullying officers” and they are tasked to identify the other bullies in situations and to report to the school’s administration. What this does, the principal said, is put these children in a position where they are seen as an upstanding student who does right. That has shown some success, we were told.

But what poses an ever-present challenge, the educator shared, is that because a lot of the children hail from areas that are infiltrated by street gangs, the activities they observe or engage in when they leave the school setting likely return to the same negativity that the school tries so hard to erase, because bullying is largely a part of the home setting in many instances. So essentially, she admits, there are more “educated bullies” now than existed when her generation was growing up.

So to make the program a successful one – and it has begun to show early successes already, the principal said – the school takes the campaign one step further. It takes on the parents and guardians of the students in parental anti-bullying workshops and counselling sessions.

“We have to let our parents understand that, ‘you may be their first bully, and their defense is well if my mom and dad could do that, I could bring it at school.’ We have them talk about it, let them see where they’re going wrong. …I have seen parents who want to do better but they don’t know how, and children too. All they know to get what they want is to be a bully. So now here come us who want to change that mentality,” the principal shared.

The campaign is not a temporary one. It will continue as part of St Martin’s daily curricular for the 658 students who attend classes there. It is a lesson that somehow got lost and courtesy was left out of the upbringing of children, not only at one school, but all over. Palacio has the view that if that courtesy is reintroduced into the home and school setting, bullying will be less likely to occur, primarily among boys who she says tend to be the ones who are quick to hit.

“These are some of the things we’re trying to teach to help them understand that this is going to help you throughout your entire life. Maybe this way the violence on the streets will stop.”

search bar

Sunbright Ad
Weather Audio Player