Mountaineer and co-founder of the Foundation for Youth Development (FYD), Graeme Dingle, has expressed huge concern around what appears to be a growing prevalence of serious assault and bullying in New Zealand schools, highlighted by two recent incidents at Kaipara College in Northland and Pukekohe High School in Franklin.
“Myself and everyone at FYD have great concerns at the rising levels of bullying and violence in schools across New Zealand, our young people should feel safe, supported and nurtured in their learning environment and both schools and the community need to ensure this is the case,” he says.
“Bullying has an incredibly negative and deep-seated effect on a young person’s confidence, self-image, their whole school experience and potentially their future; it should never be accepted as the ‘norm’.”
Dingle says that New Zealand risks bullying becoming endemic in its schools, with the recent news reports being the latest of many.
“As a country we need to be proactive about putting the wheels in motion to combat bullying from the start by instilling in children, from a young age, skills and values about positive relationship building.
“We all need to look closely at what works and build on already established models.”
Dingle said FYD already has a number of programmes in schools across the country that have proven to be effective in dealing with bullying.
“Bullying can be easily combated through the implementation of successful preventative strategies such as those used in FYD’s programmes - Kiwi Can, Stars and Project K. Evaluation of all three of our school-based programmes shows positive results for their anti-bullying strategies.
“Kiwi Can is aimed at primary school children instilling life skills and values that include teaching participants about respecting others, as well as building and maintaining positive relationships. Stars gives Year 9 students a sense of positive belonging to their school community and includes a peer mentoring component, while Project K builds confidence in 14 and 15 year olds and helps them become confident individuals with a sense of purpose and direction in their lives,” Dingle said.
He said the results of the programmes have been far reaching.
“Introduction of our Kiwi Can programme at a low decile primary school resulted in bullying being wiped out among students within one term. Similarly, with Stars we’ve had the number of stand downs for bullying significantly reduced in a short time. We’ve had many Project K students who were being bullied and lacked confidence, turn their lives around to take out top awards and become head boys and girls of schools across the country.”
The Foundation has now set plans in motion to sequence its three school-based programmes in areas of most need, in collaboration with the local community.
FYD’s Community Development Strategy comes on the back of a successful four-year pilot in Northland and has now commenced in Southland, Waikato and most recently, Manurewa.
“At the end of the day, bullying can be easily dealt with,” says Dingle.
“All that is needed is the commitment of everyone involved to tackle the problem head on and collectively agree that it is unacceptable.”