By Mariam Mokhtar

The quiet enclave of Parit received a nasty jolt when, on May 6, six students in Form Two of the Parit MARA Junior Science College (MRSM) complained about being bullied by 10 senior boys. The victims were bullied because they had refused to lend the older boys their football boots. This refusal so enraged the seniors that they assaulted the younger boys in the school hostel.

The 14-year-old victims had been beaten by boys who were 15 and 16 years old. Although the police reported that the injuries were not serious, the school has dealt swiftly with the issues and suspended the senior boys.

The Perak Central District Police Chief, Superintendent Mohamad Zainal Abdullah, said that the 10 suspects were investigated under Section 147, for causing harm.

Mohamad Zainal said that the  police have initiated legal proceedings, and the school had provided counseling for the victims. He said, “I hope that the parents don’t take any rash actions that may interfere with our investigation.”

After their statements were recorded, and a MARA appeal committee had been formed, it was decided that the bullies, who had already been suspended from the school, would be expelled.

The Deputy Rural and Regional Development Minister, Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub, said that after a full investigation into the incident had concluded, the bullies were issued with expulsion letters. He warned that this should serve as an important reminder to all students that bullying will not be tolerated.

He said that the appeal committee had made its decision without prejudice, and in full accordance of the MRSM disciplinary management procedures.

Ahmad Jazlan reiterated that MRSM would not compromise on bullying as its ethos was to develop well-rounded students, who were successful in their studies, and who were of good behaviour and character.

Nurul Kharmila Abdullah, the 40-year-old mother of one of the victims was satisfied with the outcome of the investigation into the bullying. She wholeheartedly agreed with the decision to expel the perpetrators, as it showed others that the school, and MARA, would not tolerate bullying.

It was, she said, a decision which reassured the victims and their parents, and would also help embolden other children who had been bullied. She expressed hope that the outcome would encourage victims of bullying to speak up, to combat the problem. She said that she was aware bullying was still happening in many schools.

Nurul expressed sadness that her son, who was one of the six boys who had been bullied, was so traumatised by his experience that he had refused to return to his school in Parit to sit his mid-year examinations. She told reporters that her son, and the other victims were still fearful of being bullied and would need time to overcome their fear.

The stress and trauma has prompted Nurul’s son to apply to another MRSM school, in Pahang, to continue his secondary schooling.

As a lecturer in a public higher education institution, in Negri Sembilan, Nurul expressed concern for the futures of the 10 expelled students whom she hoped would be able to continue their studies in other schools.

She said, “As an educator, I hope those involved in bullying will be given counseling and a continual reminder of their misbehaviour. They blew-off the chance to study at MRSM, but there will be many other opportunities elsewhere, provided they mend their ways.”

In recent weeks, Malaysia has seen a spate of bullying incidents, which have shocked the nation. Students assaulting other students are not the only bullies. Teachers have also bullied their students, and children are powerless to act, confused because a teacher should protect them, and not beat them just because they are younger or weaker.

We read about the high profile cases, such as the teacher who beat an 11-year-old tahfiz (Koran memorising school) pupil, on the soles of his feet. The boy’s legs developed blood clots and had to be amputated. Doctors also feared for the condition of his right arm, but Mohd Taqif Amin Mohd Gaddafi, died before the operation could be carried out.

At the end of May 21, naval cadet Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain, 21, who was studying at the Malaysian National Defence University (UPNM), died after being scalded and beaten by his fellow students. The instruments of torture were a belt, a rubber hose, a steam iron and a clothes hanger. He had been bound and tortured over a number of days.

His bullies tried to seek treatment for him, but when he did not respond to medicine, they rushed him to hospital, where he died soon after admission.  Eighty per cent of his body had been covered in bruises and scald marks.

In the latest beating, 18-year-old T. Nhaveen, from Penang, who was due to start college in KL, at the end of June, died after he was assaulted while buying burgers at Bukit Gelugor, Penang. The boys who assaulted him were his former school mates who took him to a field and beat his head with their crash helmets, before burning him with cigarette butts and sodomising him with a blunt implement.

Did no one notice any of the bullying? Why did the other members of staff not help Thaqif? Had the wardens at Zulfarhan’s dormitory noticed that several teenagers were torturing him? Had his lecturers not noticed that he was missing from class? In Nhaveen’s case, was his bullying not dealt with by his school?

A few people claim that there is an anti-bullying policy in schools, and a hotline is available for victims. How well publicised are they? When I asked around, few people were aware of either the policy or the hotline.