Our plea to the educational leaders of Singapore
SAFE wrote an open letter to Minister Heng at MOE in 2014 after a
student had posted an open letter detailing the bullying and homophobia s(he) had faced
in a local secondary school. As the original letter has been removed, we are revising
our letter now to a commentary as we feel it is important to address the issue of
bullying and homophobia in schools in Singapore.
At SAFE, we are family and friends of LGBT individuals and are
very much aware of bullying and homophobia in schools. Even so, we are thoroughly shocked by
the prolonged and severe bullying and abuse that was detailed in a letter by a
Singaporean student by the school authorities, teachers and students.
What is most apparent from that letter posted in 2014 is the need to educate school personnel about their
responsibility to protect children. It is bad enough that children bully each other without teachers and
administrators participating in and encouraging abusive behavior. The
atmosphere described by the student was destructive not just to the victim, but
will have encouraged other children to grow up believing that ridicule and
bullying are proper modes of conduct toward anyone who is different because of
race, language, religion, or sexuality.
Finally, the bullying in this particular case led to two young
people planning to take their own lives out of despair. Luckily, they did not carry out their plans.
Teachers and school personnel have the responsibility to foster an
atmosphere in school where all students feel safe and protected. There is obviously a
glaring need in Singapore for parents, students, and school personnel to be made aware of
community support and counseling resources where assistance is available so that
children like those two students do not have to suffer in this manner.
We suggest that MOE should work
closely with MOH/HPB to fulfill this need.
If all our students (AND, it would appear in this case, also the
teachers) are taught to be respectful of others who may be different in race, language,
religion OR sexual orientation, the letter-writer and other students will not have to undergo the
psychological abuse that intolerance and ignorance breeds. Therefore, we suggest that MOE
should start such a program to educate students and teachers, if there is not yet one.