June 30, 2022

A box for our children’s voices

2 min read

MUCH has been said about child abuse cases being on the rise and going undetected in this country. Statistics over the years from the police and Department of Statistics reveal worrying numbers of reported cases of crimes against children.

With news of school violence and child abuse appearing in the news on a weekly basis, I wondered what could be done differently to raise better awareness of these issues and to curb their occurrences so children could have a better school year come 2020.

When home and the outside world can be a confusing and fearful place, schools can be a safe haven for children.

When silenced at home, children can learn that they can have a voice at school. However, a safe and nonjudgmental environment is needed if children’s voices are to be heard. Children may not want to bear the stigma of being victimised by sharing stories of abuse with their peers.

And if bullied at school, the children’s peers may not be the best people to go to for help, for fear of shaming and retaliation from the bullies.

As such, new mechanisms of reporting have to be put in place at schools so that children can safely share information that they may not be ready to share face-to-face.

Last December, a Hong Kong primary school student submitted an anonymous note to her teacher, resulting in intervention in an abusive home environment. More recently, schools in Kenya began providing a locked box for students to share their innermost secrets, revealing the recurrent issue of abuse.

When victims are unable to speak for themselves, their peers may also be able to share their friends’ concerns anonymously.

Unable to find sufficient information regarding such a mechanism employed in schools in Malaysia, I can only suggest that all schools in the country consider adopting this method as a means to alleviate social challenges faced by students at school or at home.

Certainly, prevention is better than cure.

With the increasing preoccupation of children with technology and exposure to a wider range of people with ill intentions, an anonymous reporting system may serve as an outlet for students to take the first step and put forth their worries amid the lack of resources within schools and the community to overcome this situation.

With the information collected, schools can share with their communities the most challenging issues faced by their largest stakeholders and decide on the next steps moving forward.

As much as there is no one-size- fits-all issues in education, there is no one system of alleviating child abuse that fits all contexts.

MAY KHOO

Kuala Lumpur