This article contains distressing material depicting bullying and verbal abuse. Readers’ discretion is advised.
Following the news of a Mee Toh School student who was subject to what was reportedly racially-aggravated bullying by her classmates, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung on Tue (10 Mar) said that the school will “follow up with appropriate disciplinary actions”.
Mr Ong said that he was “dismayed” and “troubled” to learn that a group of students in the Punggol school had written “nasty” notes to the Malay student, and said that such behaviour “it goes against some very fundamental values of what we stand for as a society”.
“It does not matter whether the students might have done it out of mischief or that they are only Primary 5 students; the fact is that the victim felt that it was a racist act, and that makes it even more unacceptable,” he stressed.
“Our values of kindness, respect for others, cohesiveness as a multi-racial society must be inculcated from a young age, with the collective effort of families, schools and community. This should be a lesson for all students to learn from,” added Mr Ong.
The case was made public by the elder sister of the victim who posted a string of tweets last Fri (6 Mar) regarding her younger sister’s predicament.
While netizens thanked Mr Ong for highlighting the issue publically through his post, many of them have also urged Mr Ong and the Ministry of Education to step up efforts to combat bullying in schools, given the prevalence of such cases:
A number of other parents whose children were subject to bullying in schools also highlighted that despite the recent Mee Toh School case not being an “isolated” one, principals and teachers appear to be reluctant to effectively address the issue and lack “a standard procedure” in managing such cases:
Several parents highlighted how their children were also made targets of bullying at Mee Toh School. They revealed how they were forced to resort to transferring their children to other schools out of safety concerns after their complaints were not met with the appropriate disciplinary actions against the bullies:
Several netizens, among whom is a parent of a child of a minority race, pointed out that cases of specifically racially-motivated bullying are also treated dismissively by schools, in addition to “shameful” and “rubbish” parenting received by the bullies in their homes:
One commenter, in particular, highlighted that Mr Ong’s phrasing — that the Malay student “felt” that the bullying was a racist act — “really undermines” the gravity of racially-aggravated bullying and “clears the perpetrators of racist intentions”, which results in the crux of the case being “swept under the rug”.
Workers’ Party (WP) member and former Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Gerald Giam, in expressing his outrage regarding the incident, said that the Mee Toh School student’s case “should spark some soul-searching among all Singaporeans, especially us parents”.
“What values are we inculcating in our children? Do we harbour racist attitudes and inadvertently pass them on to our children? Do we teach our children to stand up to bullies, even if they are not the victims?” Mr Giam questioned.