Student’s personal testimony on bullying shared at international symposium
Student Jakob Hennaert, from a UNESCO Associated School in Belgium, shared his personal experience of school bullying when he addressed more than 270 people from 70 countries at the International Symposium on School Violence and Bullying: From Evidence to Action in Seoul, Republic of Korea.
“I was one of the kids who got bullied. In primary school I was a bit of an outsider, one of the bigger kids of whom the other kids made fun…as a kid that was really hard for me, and every day my dad had to force me to go to school,” Mr Hennaert, from the Koninklijk Atheneum Koekelberg school, said.
“A child is supposed to play, but that is very hard when you don’t have friends … The feeling of being left out is a feeling that no kid should go through, but unfortunately it still happens.”
While the situation improved for Mr Hennaert in secondary school, thanks to supportive teachers and a nurturing school environment, millions of other girls and boys suffer school-related violence every year.
He said: “Bullying is a really big problem most schools face, but because of the internet it became even worse. Even at home children receive messages intended to hurt them. I have seen cases of people who completely lost faith in themselves because of the hurtful, and mostly untrue, things that were said about them on social media.”
Concrete steps underway
Two weeks on from the International Symposium, co-organized by UNESCO and the Institute of School Violence Prevention at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, Republic of Korea, on 17-19 January, 2017, concrete steps are underway to make schools safe and non-violent for all.
As announced during the event, UNESCO has begun work on a platform to monitor and measure progress in addressing school violence and bullying, including the use of existing and new data and strengthening of indicators.
Participants also developed a list of action points to implement recommendations from the UN Secretary-General’s report on Protecting children from bullying, taking into consideration other key reports such as Out in the Open: Education sector responses to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, Global Guidance on addressing school-related gender-based violence, and the new Global Status Report on School Violence and Bullying, released on the first day of the symposium.
In addition, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais, announced a new 2018 report on the implementation of the Secretary General’s recommendations.
H.E. Young Lee, Vice Minister of Education, Republic of Korea, opening the Symposium on behalf of H.E. Joon Sik Lee, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, spoke about the impact of school violence and bullying on children and young people, adding: "School should be a place where children feel happy and creative.”
Bhutan’s Education Minister, H.E. Norbu Wangchuk, told participants that: “…schools are a mirror of society present, and they are also a predictor of society future”.
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