Z.TAMIR: Bullying is considered a serious problem that affects health

Z.TAMIR: Bullying is considered a serious problem that affects health

      I talked to Director of the National Funding department of the World Vision Mongolia Z.Tamir about bullying. He is one of the researchers actively working in the field of reducing and preventing harassment and discrimination faced by children, especially teenagers. Z.Tamir is one of the organizers of the “Be a Friend” national campaign that is being implemented at the national level.

- Every child should have equal rights, regardless of where they live, who their parents or guardians are, or what they do. However, some parents, guardians, and teachers do not know this, and it seems that children’s rights are violated. Have you done research on this?

- Our organization conducted the study “Mapping of Mongolia’s Child Protection System” in 2021. At that time, some participants answered, “some teachers at the school discriminate against children based on their family status and appearance, and insult them verbally in front of other students.” A teacher discriminating against children has a very negative effect. For example, other students in the class imitate the teacher and cause the child to be bullied more. Children should not be subjected to discrimination or bully based on how they look or what kind of environment they live in. Unfortunately, in most cases, it is common for children to be bullied and discriminated against because they look different. This may include a child’s special needs, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, living situation, family income, talent, or other health reasons. Because of these reasons, it is very important that everyone who interacts with children, including adults, parents, guardians, teachers, understands and realizes that no one should be discriminated against, and further sets a good example by showing.

- How many children drop out of school because their teachers discriminate them?

- Some of the children who participated in the research answered that “we don’t know where and whom to report about teachers who discriminate against children and how to deal with it.” The interviewees also mentioned that children drop out of school and come to Lifelong Learning Centers because of discrimination and bullying.

- There are people who think that it is normal for children to make fun of, fight with, and attack others because of the traditional understanding and way of life of Mongolians. Are such concepts and attitudes changing now?

- Before the implementation of the “Be a friend” campaign, we surveyed 3,045 elementary, middle, and high school students, 2,690 parents and guardians, and 517 teachers nationwide. When asked what to do if a child is discriminated against, most parents and guardians said, “I will report the problem, ask for support from the school’s child protection team, teachers, and social workers, help them talk with the child, and meet with the parent or guardian of the harassed child.” However, three percent of them answered that it is not a serious problem, and four percent said that they do not know how to approach this problem. So, there is still belief that peer pressure and discrimination is normal and that it will make the child only tougher.

- How to completely stop the discrimination against peers? What measures can be taken against it, especially according to the situation of our country?

- The way to stop this is to make everyone, including children, teachers, parents, guardians, and the community, understand that every child has equal rights and should live in a safe and protected environment. Of course, children’s rights must be protected. The most important responsibility for creating a safe environment falls on family members, parents, and guardians. Next, it is important to make the school environment, where children spend most of their time, safe. To create such an environment, the school management and the teachers and staff have an important role. Also, if children suffer from peer pressure, bully, or discrimination, they should report and ask for help, not just hide, and tolerate it. In addition, it is necessary to help someone who is affected by such problems. If we can work together in this way, peer pressure and discrimination can be stopped.

- Children from families with incomes below the subsistence level are at high risk of being harassed and becoming victims. Is it really so? And which of the boys and girls are more harassed?

- World Vision Mongolia, INGO, conducted an interview with teachers and staff while developing a 2021 assessment report for the child protection sector. At that time, it was very unfortunate to find out about a conclusion that says “children from families with incomes below the subsistence level are discriminated against.” Also, there are international reports that children who are not inferior to others in terms of power, such as social status, wealth, and position in the class, are victims of bullying. According to the results of the preliminary research for the “Be a friend” campaign, it was found that both boys and girls are bullied at the same level. This is contrary to popular belief that boys are more likely to be bullied.

- Even if children are harassed, they don’t tell you. How do parents and guardians know if their child is being bullied?

- A child who is pressured by peers does not like to go to school. There may also be symptoms such as poor academic performance, AWOL from school, bad habits, reluctance to participate in any activity, desire for more pocket money, and irritability. There is an increase in the desire to be silent, to be alone, to harass others, to bully, to hurt, and to be injured. Furthermore, they can become very emotionally distressed and develop serious mental health problems that can affect their lives for the rest of their lives. Internationally, youth violence, especially adolescent bullying, has become a serious public health problem. Therefore, you should always advise and tell your child that they should not hide when they are bullied and should not hesitate to ask for help from others.

- I heard an official saying that three out of four teenagers are being discriminated against. Is it true? What research found this?

- As mentioned earlier, when 3,045 students were surveyed nationwide, more than half of them, or 52.3 percent, responded that they were subjected to bullying and discrimination in some way. Of the students who were discriminated against, 19 percent of the children were in elementary school, 55 percent in middle school, and 26 percent in high school. In other words, bullying was lowest among elementary school kids and highest among middle grade students.

- Has the research clarified where and what form of violence they are mainly exposed to?

-According to a survey conducted by the Communications Regulatory Commission, 50 percent of children have been subjected to online harassment. However, only 15 percent of them told their parents or guardians about it. Eight out of 10 children surveyed have more than one account on Facebook, on average three to four. In other words, it was mentioned that these accounts on social networks were used for different purposes, such as with parents, friends, and others. It has become common for children to use social networks to insult each other, spread false information, and discriminate and bully based on the clothes they wear and family conditions. In the school environment, it is common among male students to pressure younger children by asking for money, and if they don’t give it to them, they beat them. Research has shown that emotional harassment and violence based on online discrimination are common for girls. In some cases, the classroom teacher is aware of this but does not take any action. Or not knowing how to act is the reason why peer pressure and violence incidents does not decrease. Harassment and violence in the school environment can include direct actions such as teasing, threatening, hitting, stealing, or hiding things from students. It also includes spreading rumors about one another and indirectly affecting the student’s social isolation. Recently, due to the increased use of the Internet and social networks by children, discrimination and harassment in the online environment has become more common. Therefore, parents and guardians need to pay attention to the proper use of their children’s electronic environment, mobile phones, tablets, and computers from an early age.

- Do we have any national research in this field?

- There is no independent national research on bullying and discrimination. However, there are studies that focus on this issue within the field of child protection and education. For example, it is possible to mention the “Current State of Internet Use among Adolescents Research Report-2021” issued by the Council for Crime Prevention in Mongolia, the National Police Agency, the University of Internal Affairs, and the United Nations Children’s Fund. There are also “Mongolian child protection system mapping research report-2021” issued by our organization, and “Current situation of youth electronic use research report-2018” prepared by the Authority for Family, Children and Youth Development.

- As you mentioned, many organizations have conducted research. However, it seems that the results are not visible in reality. Does research on paper not correspond to life?

- It is very important to carry out this type of research on a large scale, with high quality and regularly, and to share the results with the public. In this way, every organization that works for children and has a responsibility, can use research data to effectively plan and implement their work. Furthermore, it will be easier to calculate the results. Without sufficient research, we cannot have a complete understanding and picture of the situation. In addition, it is impossible to correctly define the work to be carried out and measure its results. I think that based on research, it is necessary to pay attention to the optimal use of funds in the child protection sector.

- What international experience should be introduced for children to live in a healthy and safe environment. Have you researched about this?

- World Vision Mongolia organizes many activities in the field of child protection. For example, we established “Impact Plus” or a club at school based on international experience and methods to support and empower children’s participation. In this way, children are supported to identify the problems they are facing in themselves and in society and implement project work based on them. In this way, it is effective to organize activities to empower and develop children and increase their self-confidence using methods that have already been tested and introduced internationally and proven effective. The experience of other countries shows the effectiveness of preventing bullying in the school environment, creating a positive atmosphere, establishing a culture free from violence, conducting regular anti-discrimination activities, having specific procedures in this area, and implementing well the teachers’ code of conduct.

- How can parents and guardians set an example for their children?

- A child is a mirror of their parents. With whom the child spends the most time, he or she becomes like them, imitates their actions and words. “Every child, every person have equal rights and deserves equal respect. They should also respect other’s differences” was not understood by some parents and guardians, which led them to believe that “discrimination is normal”. So, if we want our children to be happy, successful, worry-free, and have goals and dreams in the future, we must pay attention to our words and actions and set the right example. It is the responsibility of parents and guardians to show their children how to respect others and how to communicate well without discrimination.

- What activities are currently being implemented within the framework of the “Be a friend” campaign?

- World Vision has been organizing the “It Takes A World” advocacy campaign every year since 2017 in more than 90 countries to stop all kinds of violence against children. Our country has joined this campaign for the seventh year and is organizing the “Be a Friend” national campaign, which aims to reduce bullying and discrimination, from April 27 to June 8. As part of the campaign, children, parents, guardians, and teachers are provided with information about peer pressure and discrimination and advice on how to prevent it. In this way, we aim to reduce the harmful effects of bullying, especially online harassment. To keep children interested, posters and stickers are printed and distributed, and a variety of posters and short videos are posted online to attract their attention. In addition, social movements were started among students, and distance courses were started for children, parents, guardians, and teachers. “Be a Friend” campaign is being implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Digital Development and Communications, Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, National Center for Mental Health, Mongolian Children’s Council, Mongolian Scout Association, and Good neighbors Mongolia. These organizations are conducting campaigns in 21 provinces and nine districts of Ulaanbaatar through their affiliated and branch organizations. Children are working to spread information about the negative effects of bullying and discrimination and what measures can be taken to protect them.

Amarjargal Munkhbat