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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

UAE schools adopt anti-bullying apps to help pupils suffering in silence

Pupils who are victims of bullying can now seek help anonymously

Gems Metropole School pupils Foj Obac,Mikail Sheikh and Aya Adib recently took part in an anti-bullying week at the school. Antonie Robertson/The National
Gems Metropole School pupils Foj Obac,Mikail Sheikh and Aya Adib recently took part in an anti-bullying week at the school. Antonie Robertson/The National

Anti-bullying apps are being adopted by UAE schools to ensure worried pupils don't have to suffer in silence - and help remove the 'stigma' of approaching a counsellor.

Reporting applications, online forms and even QR codes are being used as high-tech tools by educators determined to offer respite to those who are fearful of coming forward.

Jumeriah Baccalaureate School has recently launched a reporting application, called Bravely, which pupils can use to report instances of bullying anonymously, through text, pictures and videos.

Denise Kenny, a counsellor at the school, which teaches children from ages three up to 17, says the application acts as a direct line to her, allowing her to support more people than ever before.

"Using the app will open up more avenues to reach pupils who may be bullied and give other pupils the courage to message and see me when they need support," said Ms Kenny.

"In schools there is a lot of stigma around going to the counsellor. We are a big school and I work across the school from primary to secondary. Through the app, I can try and reach out to more pupils."

The school has a no-phone policy and the counsellor said she receives messages in the evening, which she responds to within 24 hours.

While the messages are anonymous, the counsellor can see the username and understand if the same pupils are using the app regularly or if different pupils are facing the same issue.

"We are trying to use technology to link to pupils," she said.

"Schools in Dubai are also using QR (quick response) codes. Pupils can scan the code and fill in a form. Our pupils are technology-focused and we need to find ways to link to them. We try to find different methods to get the best for the pupil’s well-being at school.

"I am the only counsellor and there are over 800 pupils at the school and figuring out what is going on in each class is difficult.

Gems Metropole School in Motor City has a student population of 3,100 and staff decided they needed a new method of reporting bullying.

In primary school, they have instituted a QR code where pupils can report bullying anonymously.

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Read more:

Dubai pupils are happy but nearly a quarter do not feel safe over bullying, study shows

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Dubai teen’s Bullying Is Not Okay campaign tells victims to speak up

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Mark McAdam, deputy head of secondary at the school, said pupils can access the code with their iPads.

It will then bring up an online form to fill out with the issue they need to raise, which will be sent to a school leader when completed.

Secondary school pupils can access a google document form which they can report bullying and save in the favourites section on their devices.

The cyber crackdown on bullying has been welcomed by pupils at the school.

"We have seen that children have become more open and are reporting more. We are glad pupils feel safe enough to report such things," said Aya Adib, a 15-year-old pupil.

"the idea of using a QR code is very smart," said Mikail Sheikh, a 14-year-old pupil from Pakistan.

"Our generation is different from the previous generation where you would just speak with a counsellor. By using technology, pupils are more open and can type in their problems rather than talking about it.

"The fact that it is anonymous helps because people of my age group don’t like exposing their problems too much.

"Writing it on the google document helps us open up. It’s a great way to let people know.

"If a pupil prefers to talk to a counsellor, they have that option too."

Haneen Jarrar, a child psychologist at Camali Clinic in Dubai is hopeful that the use of technology will boost the reporting of bullying in schools.

"A lot of schools have introduced anonymous reporting," she said.

"Children are tech-savvy and they are comfortable using these methods to communicate as they can express their feelings if something has happened.

"A lot of times children are too shy to go to the counsellor," she said.

The psychologist believes that children don’t want to be seen going to see the teacher or counsellor.

"Apps or online forms offer a secure method to report bullying.

“If it’s done right, it increases the reporting of bullying and prevents matters from escalating further.

She warned that schools must train the teachers, counsellors, and pupils and ensure they are comfortable using the technology.

She believes that if the app is too tough to log in to, and is not user-friendly, people won’t use it.

"You also have to make it accessible, age-appropriate and user-friendly," she said.

The psychologist believes the app may be helpful in many schools which have a large student population but just one counsellor.