How and when bullying starts ― Syahril Abdul Jalil

JUNE 16 ― I am a product of the boarding school system of the early 90s. The tragic death of our students caused by bullying has compelled me to write this article so that we can understand how bullying starts and hopefully with this understanding we will be able to stop this nauseating culture. So here it goes.

The seed of bullying was planted right in the first week of school, during the so called “orientation week”. This is where the juniors were brainwashed to accept “seniors’ supremacy”. As juniors walk along the school corridors, on the field, or at the canteen, they were expected to give “salam” greetings to their seniors. Trivial as it sounds, but make no mistake, the message is clear ― respect the supremacy of your seniors.

Next step is where the juniors were expected to obtain the signatures of their seniors during the orientation week. The number of signatures required can be 40, 50 or up to 100 signatures, depending on your luck.

Those who were in boarding schools before know very well that the juniors would be required to do certain things for the seniors before they can obtain the signatures. It can be a minor instruction to sing a song or if you are unlucky, there will be clothes and shoes for you to wash.

From here onwards your fate can be worse, depending again, on your luck. A minor dissatisfaction can lead to a minor slap, and may aggravate into severe beatings depending on the seniors’ appetite for violence. I was once called to a senior’s room where he was waiting for me with a hockey stick. All because I refused to wash his shoes.

I can go on writing countless of examples but the point I am trying to make is this. Throughout all these years, boarding schools’ administrators, principals, teachers and wardens knew about this orientation practice and how it breeds fear by fermenting seniors’ supremacy culture. And yet, nothing much has been done to change the system.  All that the public will hear is that “Actions will be taken”.

By the time we punish a bully, damage is done. Bruises healed, but trauma remains. On a personal level, being a product of boarding school brings me no pride. Behind the facade of straight A's is a pathetic state of moral decadence, supported by parents’ selfish pursuit of paper excellence for their children ― the bullies and the bullies in the making.

# In writing this article, I would like to express my utmost gratitude to the International Islamic University, Malaysia. I led a happy life as seniors minded their own business and left us to our own devices. There were no ridiculous practices of obtaining signatures and the like, no fear culture, no indoctrination, and we integrated with the seniors via “usrah” (discourse), sports and clubs activities. And we moved on to become normal human beings.

* This is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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