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No student monitoring can lead to bullying

Lack of effective monitoring by teachers in classrooms can open the door to student bullying.

This is the view of the Principal of Aoga Fiamalamalama, Sharon Shuren, whose school has children with intellectual disabilities.

She told Samoa Observer in an interview that the lack of monitoring of student behaviour by teachers can lead to incidents of bullying.

"Bullies like to bully people when no one is looking. The teachers should do their duty because if kids know that they can't get away with bullying other people then they won't do it, but if they know they can get away with it then they will do it," she said. 

Her comments follows the recent publishing of the findings of a study on bullying on Samoa in the EClinicalMedicine, an academic outlet affiliated with the highly prestigious journal the Lancet. According to the study, a total of 79 per cent of Samoan males and 70 per cent of females had experienced bullying. Young people in a total of 83 countries were studied, with prevalence of bullying falling to as low as 7 per cent in Tajikistan. 

However, Mrs Shuren said they have not had any cases of bullying in her school and also do not condone practices such as corporal punishment as they have child protection policies.

“There are no bullying cases at Aoga Fiamalamalama. There are no problems (bullying) here at the school because most of it is just behavioural. Autistic children don’t know how to interact with other people and children. If they want something, they don’t deliberately hurt anyone," she said. 

“Within the school, if a child is autistic and he has a biting habit, the reason why is because they cannot communicate to you about what they want. Here at Aoga Fiamalamalama, we start with setting boundaries with them. We don’t allow them into the classroom until they understand boundaries, for example, not allowed to bite anybody. Once they understand the boundaries then that’s when they join the other students.”

Aoga Fiamalamalama teachers are also not allowed to use “strong language” on the students, added the Principal. 

The work of the school with children with intellectual disabilities has also enabled parents to acknowledge that autistic students learn differently, by looking at the actions of role models.

“There are now more parents that are aware of the fact that autistic kids learn differently so we have to role model. We cannot instruct them about what to do, we have to show them what to do,” added the Principal. “We have a reward system for them for their achievements and that helps them stop habits such as pushing and biting and it will also help them develop their social skills over time."

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