It started when his schoolbag went missing. Six months later, Eddy (not his real name) was sprayed with soya sauce, called names and kicked several times.
Eddy, 10, is a Primary 5 pupil at a school in the west. He told The New Paper that his ordeal began when his schoolbag went missing from his classroom between lessons last September.
The bullying got worse in March this year when a Primary 6 boy called him names before repeatedly kicking him. The attack left a large bruise on his left upper arm.
Speaking to TNP in his flat, Eddy said he had gone for his mother tongue class in another room when his bag disappeared. He said: “I was worried as the bag and its contents cost about $150 in all. I looked for it everywhere, but it was nowhere to be found.”
When his mother, who wanted to be known only as Madam Ann, 47, found out about the missing bag, she alerted one of his teachers. The housewife decided to let the matter rest when two prefects found the bag at an open-air balcony on the fourth storey of the school the next day.
Eddy said: “I was relieved, but my bag was wet as it had rained the night before. Nothing was missing or damaged as my bag was closed. Until now, I still don’t know who had taken it.”
THREATENED BY OLDER BOY
In March this year, while walking home at around 3.30pm. Eddy stopped to chat with two Primary 5 boys at a traffic light junction.
He said a Primary 6 boy who was with them suddenly threatened to squirt him with his “pepper spray”.
Eddy said: “I jokingly stuck out my tongue at him. He took out a small bottle and sprayed some liquid on my face. I tasted it and found that it was soya sauce.
“The boy was laughing when he did that so I thought he was just joking.”
But matters took a serious turn when he encountered the boy and another Primary 6 pupil on March 29. The boy called him names, and refused to stop despite Eddy’s protests. Eddy said: “He also threatened to call his friends down to beat me up if I made him angry.”
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TWO DAYS OF MEDICAL LEAVE
Eddy ignored him and left for a nearby 7-Eleven store but noticed the two boys following him. When he entered the store, he held onto the doors to prevent them from entering but failed.
As he was making payment, the bully suddenly kicked him on his right thigh.
He said he did not retaliate and walked to a nearby bus stop. The bully followed him and continued kicking his thighs. Unable to take the abuse, Eddy cried.
While he was at the bus stop, the boy ran towards him and kicked him hard on his left upper arm. Two schoolmates nearby tried to stop them, but the bully and his friend also punched them, Eddy said.
When his bus showed up a minute later, Eddy got in and wept all the way home.
Madam Ann was furious to find out about the bullying and called the school to speak to a teacher.
Eddy made a police report the next day. The police confirmed the report.
Madam Ann said they reported the matter to the police because she was worried that Eddy would be assaulted again. Eddy was given two days’ medical leave by KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
Responding to TNP’s queries, the school principal said: “We are aware of the incident and have spoken to the parents and students involved. The school will continue to monitor and follow up with the students involved.”
On May 1, Madam Ann told TNP that a teacher had assured Eddy that he will be safe, both in school and outside. She added: “My son told me that the bully has apologised to him. His teachers have assured me that my son can approach them if he is bullied again, and I’m glad.”
Eddy, who does not want to transfer to another school, said: “I have lots of friends here. I also know my mother and teachers are looking out for me.”
BULLYING COULD START FROM HOME
Parents and other adults can play an important role in curbing bullying among children, experts told The New Paper.
Ian Poulier, associate consultant at counselling service SEL Network, said victims must immediately inform adults they trust, such as their parents and teachers.
The former school counsellor of 12 years added: “Victims shouldn’t fight back. They may end up badly hurting their bullies, and end up in trouble themselves.”
Dr Carol Balhetchet, senior director of youth services at the Singapore Children’s Society, said parents should also remain calm when they find that their children have been bullied.
The clinical psychologist said they should inform the school authorities, who can investigate the matter by listening to both sides.
Counsellors can also be called in to help the bully and victim.
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So why do some children bully others? Dr Balhetchet said that some do so to feel empowered and gain attention from their peers. “There are instances where the child feels bullied at home by siblings or parents,” she said.
“What they can’t do at home, they may take it out on their peers. But not every bully is bullied at home.”
She also stressed that parents need to be good role models so that their children do not become bullies.
Mr Poulier said parents of bullies need to take a step back and reflect on why their children target others. He said: “If the parents think they are verbally abusive to their kids, they may need to stop that.
“They should talk to their kids to find out why their children act that way. Parents of bullies can also go for counselling to know more about parenting techniques.”
HOW TO DEAL WITH A BULLY
Tips for victims
– Ignore the bully and walk away.
– Avoid the bully.
– Stick to your friends. Bullies hardly pick on those who are surrounded by friends.
– Tell an adult, parent, teacher, counsellor or the principal.
– Ask a witness to report the bullying to an adult.
What bullies can do to stop their bad behaviour
– Put yourself in the shoes of your victims.
– If you usually hang out with people who bully others, get away from them and find new friends.
– Ask people whom you trust to help you, such as your parents, teachers or school counsellors.
– Try to make amends or at least be pleasant to those you used to bully.
Tinkle Friend Helpline (for primary school pupils only): 1800-274-4788
A version of this story first appeared in The New Paper.