Singapore — After a suicide attempt due to being bullied by some boys, a young girl wrote a letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, now widely shared, urging him “to improve the way schools and MOE (Ministry of Education) respond to bullying”.
The 14-year-old girl, whose name has been redacted for her protection, told Mr Lee: “According to an OECD study, Singapore has the highest rate of bullying globally. Our country is not as big as others yet we are that high up the charts.”
The letter was circulated on WhatsApp and then posted on Facebook. It is not clear when it was written or whether the Prime Minister’s Office has received it.
The girl wrote that she had been “bullied and attacked physically in school, as the school did not protect me. I ended up self-harming and feeling very scared.”
In 2019, when she was in Secondary 1, someone had posted on Tellonym, a free and anonymous messaging app, about the girl.
Another person then shared a screengrab of the post.
When she saw this, she reported it to her academic mentor but received no response from the school. She then told her parents. When they confronted the mentor, the mentor assured them that the school would do something about it.
However, by February 2020, after the mentor left the school, the school claimed to know nothing of the incident and said that the mentor had not reported it.
Meanwhile, the physical and verbal bullying of the girl had continued and even escalated. Two boys in her class threw objects at her, one of which cut her on the lips. One of the boys told her, among other taunts, that “he would go blind and get cancer if he looked at her”.
And while the girl also told of this incident to her mentor, the school claims it did not know about it.
The girl added: “On a few occasions between August and October 2019, a boy hit me on my head, touched my face, and tried to kick me in between my legs while I was seated but luckily I shuffled aside just in time.”
When the girl’s parents approached the school for action to be taken, the discipline master told them on three separate occasions that it was not an appropriate time to talk to one of the bullies as his father was ill, it was exam season and that the boy’s father had passed away.
She added that the school said they had resolved the issue, but what actually happened is that the boy and the girl were pulled aside after assembly, and the boy was asked to apologise to her.
“I was asked then if it was ok. I felt very uncomfortable at having to be so close to someone who had tried to assault me, and quickly said okay so I could leave.”
However, the bullying continued into this year. The girl felt relieved when she started to do her schooling from home because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but when it came time to return to actual classes, she “was terrified and had trouble sleeping”.
She then took an overdose as she “could not bear the thought of having to face my bullies and unknown person/s who wish me dead, not knowing who will attack me next.
“What made it worse was knowing that the school would not protect me.”
The girl spent 12 days in hospital after her suicide attempt and was given an MC for another four weeks.
She has since transferred to another school.
The young teen said: “It’s no use for schools to say they have zero tolerance to bullying when they demonstrate zero or little actions.”
She says she is still traumatised and is in therapy, and that it had been “painful” to write the letter.
“But the reason I want to fight bullying is because I do not want any student or child to feel the same way as I had felt under such circumstances. Something must be done before more kids get hurt.” /TISG