Dr Saad Al Harran
Every School must provide a caring, safe and respectful environment to allow knowledge to flourish. This is a basic human right.
Conducive learning environment allows students to succeed academically, morally and socially, contribute positively in building a nation and achieving economic development.
However, the picture is different today because many parents and caregivers are concerned about the rise of bullying in many schools in the country.
This social disease is quietly spreading within communities like a cancer not only in intermediate and high schools but also in primary schools.
I migrated to New Zealand in 1996 (under professional category) and lived in Christchurch until 2003. I told my wife that although this country is beautiful, peace loving and friendly, it would not succeed in the global arena because its social costs far exceed financial returns that the government generates from selling meat and dairy products internationally.
Regrettably, moral and ethical values (by teaching children and young adults what is right and wrong) have ended similarly to the marriage and family units as social institution.
Now we have many single women who are struggling hard from one part-time job to another, trying to provide sustenance for their shattered life.
It is also true that respect to parents, caregivers, teachers and community has eroded, because there is no proper upbringing.
The global media has taken over the role of parenting, which promotes violence and disrespect among children, not only towards themselves but also towards parents and the community.
Some school principals deny that bullying exist in their schools and that they are happy since their school is doing well in extracurricular activities (like sports).
Thus, the image of these schools is rosy and beautiful on the outside.
Those who suffer the most are victims of bullying, their parents and caregivers.
The vulnerable victims develop anxiety and depression that leads them to social withdrawal from the society. Often they hate themselves, and many resort to self-harming as an unhealthy coping mechanism to deal with their pain.
These young adults start to hate school and fear for their own safety because further attacks might occur from students who come from shattered family backgrounds.
The alternatives are of course to enrol these victims in another institution or a correspondent school but the latter may still lead youngsters to withdraw from the community and lose social contacts.
Freyberg High in Palmerston North has a Caring School (www.Freyberg.ac.nz).
Located in a quiet and peaceful environment to enable students to concentrate on learning, the School helps them develop friendship with the right students. Its academic and administrative staff are friendly, kind and welcoming.
The Craig Centre, which opened in 2001 is unique and caters to special needs.
With quality care, it is considered one of the best centres in New Zealand, with its experienced staff catering for students requiring individual support attention as well as facilities such as therapy and relaxation spaces, lovely bright classrooms with an attached student kitchen, dining area and a spa pool.
Other services the centre provides includes specialised Individual Education Plans and Programmes, holistic, inclusive education with full in-class support, supportive, resourced environment, close home-school liaison, specialist staff and specialised equipment, speech-language therapy and Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy Programmes.
The success of the Centre is because of the leadership and supporting staff, who look after the wellbeing of students with special needs and respect them.
Phyllis Burns has worked hard for many years and last year she was promoted to the post of Head of Department at the Centre. She looks after the wellbeing of these gifted angels and helps bring happiness to them so that they can excel in the school and real life.
These human assets are untapped potentials that need to be promoted not only at local level but also regionally and internationally.
I believe that international television channels (likes Aljazeera and the Qatar Foundation) must study this integrated model of human empowerment so that schools in the Middle East can learn what Freyberg High School has done to help students with special needs to succeed academically and socially.
Dr Saad Al-Harran is a specialist in Islamic Microfinance Enterprise and a former Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Business, University of Brunei Darussalam. He has a doctorate (PhD) in Economics from Durham University (UK). He now lives in Palmerston North. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org