Wednesday, January 18, 2017
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.