School, for this timid nine-year-old, has come to mean nothing but torment.
In less than a year, he has been punched in the face and stomach, and tripped so badly that he fell and fractured his arm.
Last year, he returned home with a bloody nose after being punched by a classroom bully.
A few months later, Alan (not his real name) returned from school complaining of abdominal pains. He later told his mother that he had been punched in the stomach by the same classmate.
In the latest incident, last week, he suffered a fractured forearm when he was tripped by the same bully at school.
It was the last straw for Alan's mother, Madam Tira Natalia.
The 28-year-old housewife was at home when she received a phone call from her son's primary school, which is in the western part of Singapore.
"The school called me at around 11.30am to say that my son fractured his arm after a fall," said Madam Tira, speaking in Bahasa Indonesia.
She called The New Paper hotline to alert us to her son's injuries.
Madam Tira later learnt that the culprit was the same classmate, who is also nine years old.
When The New Paper met the family at their Ho Ching Road flat on Wednesday, she produced a medical certificate from National University Hospital, confirming that her son had fractured his forearm.
She made a police report on the same day.
Alan was given 12 days of medical leave.
The boy's father, who is in his 40s and is a cook, was not at home at the time. The couple have another son, who is five.
When asked about the incident, Alan kept silent. He seemed fearful that implicating his tormentor would get him into more trouble.
As this reporter tried to coax Alan to tell his side of the story, Madam Tira gave a huge sigh.
She described Alan as a previously vibrant and joyful boy who has been badly affected by the bullying.
"He's constantly in pain and all he does now is lie down in front of the television," she said.
If he was talkative previously, the mother said Alan is now moody and withdrawn.
"I'm worried about him, especially with his exams around the corner," added Madam Tira.
Alan was initially reluctant to give his mother details of the beatings.
"After much coaxing, I learnt that his classmate had again picked on him, this time tripping my son as he was going up the stairs to the hall for his physical education (PE) lesson," she said.
Madam Tira found her son sitting in the school's office with his arm in a sling when she arrived at 11.40am on the day of the incident.
"I was in a panicked state, so I didn't ask why my son wasn't sent to the hospital immediately," she said.
Her first question was to the school office staff member: "What happened to my son?"
The reply she claimed she received: "No idea."
Said Madam Tira: "I was very angry at that point because they had no answer for me. But by then, my first priority was to send my son for treatment."
After she left the hospital at around 7pm, she filed a police report.
Even as her son heals, Madam Tira said there are still unanswered questions.
Why has the school not allowed her to contact the alleged bully's parents for an explanation?
Will the boy be punished? What is the school doing to ensure this doesn't happen again?
The school has yet to give any satisfactory answers, said Madam Tira.
Said Madam Tira: "It's as if people don't want to take responsibility over what happened. This is the third time my son has been bullied.
"An apology and explanation of what happened is all I want at this point."
Responding to queries from TNP, the school sent a statement saying that it responded "immediately" to care for the well-being of the injured student and to discipline the other student.
The alleged bully is also "remorseful", it added.
But the school declined to say if it was aware that Alan had been repeatedly bullied or if the bully has been punished.
How do you deal with bullying?
WHY VICTIMS DO NOT SPEAK OUT:
The bully gains power by isolating the victim, explains clinical psychologist and senior director of youth services at the Singapore Children's Society, Dr Carol Balhetchet.
The victim also feels like it is his or her fault, and is too ashamed to ask for help.
The victim is worried that adult intervention would make matters worse.
He or she is resigned to the fate of being a victim and does not want to bring trouble to his parents, friends or family members. Also, the victims are afraid of retaliation from the bully.
SPEAK UP, BE AMONG FRIENDS:
The victim needs to speak up, advises Dr Balhetchet.
By telling other people, that will push the bully in the open.
The victim should stay in the open and be among friends to avoid being picked on.
Even when you are in groups, don't antagonise the bully - it might make the situation worse.
The victim must inform their family member or teacher so they are aware of what's happening. In the worst-case scenario, inform the police.
The victim must remember that it is not their fault. Bullies exist to feed on the victim's fears.
Violence in schools
A Secondary 3 student was allegedly punched by a classmate while sitting at his desk during a Literature class. The 14-year-old boy's spectacles shattered from the impact. He needed four stitches for a 5mm laceration below his eyes and was given medical leave for five days.
A Primary 6 pupil was alleged dragged into a classroom by a teacher who held him down on a table by his neck. The incident left the pupil with a minor head injury, according to a medical certificate issued by KK Women's and Children's Hospital.
A Secondary 1 student from Montfort Secondary was attacked outside his school in Hougang by a group of teenagers. He suffered a large bruise on the right side of his face. The five attackers, two of whom were girls, are believed to be from other schools.
|Coalition Against Bullying for Children and Youth:||6223-3122|
|Singapore Children’s Society (for primary school):||1800-274-4788|
|Samaritans of Singapore:||1800-221-4444|
This article was published on May 3 in The New Paper.
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