Teachers will soon be including anti-bullying messages in their lessons as the Ministry of Education has called on educators to stamp out verbal abuse among children.
Officials instructed schools to select teachers across five subjects – maths, health sciences, Arabic language, moral education and music – who would then incorporate the message into their lessons.
The aim is for children to learn that verbal bullying is unacceptable, through examples provided by the teacher of each subject.
For example, a teacher of Arabic might ask pupils to write a story about a child being bullied, or a health sciences teacher could ask children to cut a heart out of red paper, crumple it up, and then see whether it could ever return to being perfectly flat.
The multi-dimensional approach will ensure children understand not only that verbally bullying is wrong, but also why it is wrong.
The decision comes after the Ministry of Education prepared a guidebook on the topic and distributed it to schools across the UAE. It aims to promote positive behaviour among children and provide teachers with examples for activities they can use to help schoolchildren understand verbal bullying and how it affects others emotionally.
It also suggests scenarios that teach skills to help people deal with verbal bullying incidents whether as victims, bullies, bystanders or guardians.
“Issuing the guide is a very important move and it's imperative we follow it because in my 11-year career as a teacher I have witnessed so much verbal bullying,” said Walaa Musatafa, a maths teacher at a private school in Ras Al Khaimah.
She believes the behaviour is widespread and that stopping it involves commitment from teachers, school administrations, parents and pupils themselves.
Jumana Yousif, 35, from Jordan, said: “Although my daughter dealt with it properly by telling me all about it, other children may not know what to do and suffer in silence.
“Launching this scheme is really amazing and I hope parents will take part because children mirror their parents’ behaviour.”
Ms Yousif said her daughter, in grade four, was mocked and bullied by classmates at a private school in Sharjah because she is hyperactive and fidgets a lot.
“She was crying and deeply saddened and refused to go to school,” said the mother-of-two who raised her concerns to the school's social expert.
“The school promised to deal with the incident and they actually did, and the social expert spoke to my daughter and comforted her.”
“Her classmates were also spoken to and informed what they did was wrong and unacceptable."
The guide highlights how teachers are encouraged to discuss their pupils’ feelings and reactions to each activity and highlight how nicknames and harsh statements, whether made face to face or virtually, can be hurtful.
It says children must be taught to respect difference of abilities and to understand how verbal abuse can lead to emotional distress, depression, eating and sleeping disorders, as well as low self-esteem.
“It should be mandatory that schools implement this guide to stop verbal bullying and prevent it from happening in the future,” said Wafaa Eid, who has taught maths at Ebdaa Model School in Dubai for 12 years.
“I recall many incidents where pupils bullied their classmates and silenced them when they attempted to answer a question in class, or mocked their answers,” she said.
Ms Wafaa, who has been teaching in schools in Sharjah and Dubai for 26 years, said she was aware of former pupils who were bullied in class still suffering from the emotional effect as adults.
“At my school, although we barely see incidents of any sort of bullying as a result of our regular programmes for years now, we will implement the guidebook as should all other schools.”