Qatar Foundation schools staged a series of activities during Anti-Bullying Week, involving teachers and students to help raise awareness of the most effective ways to combat different forms of bullying.

The activities were designed to teach students the ‘right’ ways to respond to a bully, and to highlight how silently observing bullying contributes to its escalation – and the victimisation of its target.

At Awsaj Academy, a school under Qatar Foundation Pre-University Education specialising in addressing the needs of students with learning difficulties, teaching social skills is an integral part of the learning experience. Each year during Anti-Bullying Week, the school holds activities designed to teach students how they should respond to intimidating behaviour, and to emphasise the importance of empathy and friendliness between students.

According to Awsaj Academy counselor Sally Chalouhy, the issue of bullying in school needs to be addressed through conscious and effective approaches, particularly because it significantly affects the mental health of children and young people.

This year, cyberbullying was at the centre of our activities during Anti-Bullying Week due to the exceptional circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the transition to remote learning. These included sending out a detailed presentation about online safety to our teachers to discuss with students.

She said that their Bully Blockers – a group of students from different grades formed five years ago – showed proactivity and enthusiasm – through shooting videos that raise awareness of bullying and how students can defend themselves and others when faced with such situations, as well as how they can fight passivity and speak up when they witness an act of bullying.

We also asked the students, together with their parents, to design their own T-shirt with a statement that reflects an anti-bullying slogan, and wear it to school on a certain day.

Another Qatar Foundation school, Qatar Academy Sidra, educating students about bullying and safeguarding, is part of a framework of social and emotional learning that, for the past three years, has been taught year-round. Each month is dedicated to a certain theme, with November dedicated to learning how to respond to bullying and personal safeguarding. December will focus on emotional management and February will concentrate on mindfulness.

Qatar Academy Sidra Student Counselor Aristea Mastoraki said that during November, students from primary to secondary stage have learned about many ways to fight bullying, such as how to identify the characteristics of safe and unsafe environments, how to respond to pressure – whether through cyberbullying or peer pressure – how to identify their support system and people they can turn to at home, at school, or in their community for help and advice, the reasons why there’s a need to stand against bullying, and general information on digital citizenship and how to be responsible on the digital sphere.

She said that all these themes were addressed through activities performed by students, together with their homeroom teachers. They created scenarios simulating real-life situations and ways to respond to bullying, and presented them in the school assembly. They also had class discussions and designed posters illustrating the right ways to handle the pressure of such behaviours.

Grade 8 student Reem Al Alem said the sessions helped them understand how to recognise bullying and how to protect against it.

It also helped us recognise potential dangers in an uncomfortable situation and how to be assertive against bullying. We also learned that safety is not just physical – it is social, emotional, cyber-related, and mental.

Meanwhile at Qatar Academy Al Khor – another school under the QF Pre-University Education – Anti-Bullying Week has seen students being encouraged, through a virtual activity, to become principled learners and demonstrate kindness towards others.

Students were given the opportunity to share their thoughts on interacting with others, to help develop their social and communication skills, and pledge to speak out when they or someone they know is being bullied. Senior school teachers also played videos about bullying and how it should be tackled during lessons.