Why bully? Be helpful

Fostering kindness has been highly effective in creating empathetic school populations that are less likely to partake in bullying behaviour

A rather diverse award has been introduced both in the UK and the United States of America. Contests were held between schools taking part in a National Kindness campaign aimed to inspire children to celebrate kindness.

In the United Kingdom, schools were able to download ‘Kindness resource packs’ containing ideas on how to promote kindness among school children. A comprehensive school serving one of the most deprived areas in England won the award after its students chose kind messages posted on a wonder tree in a school corridor. This was inspired by the acclaimed novel ‘Wonder’ by R J Palacio, which is a story of kindness, acceptance and friendship. It is a book about how a boy with a facial disfigurement copes at school.

Eastbury Community school, a 1,850-pupil school in East London maintained by the local authority, won the award as the Kindest School in the UK. The messages posted by the students included “know to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret and how to acquire without meanness. Another important message read “Why bully, be helpful”.

The UK award was organised by the Penguin Random House Children’s UK but it had the support of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, a coalition of organisations and individuals working together to stop bullying and create safe environments in which children and young people can live, grow, play and learn.

In 2013, Mason High School of Ohio was named kindest school in America after the pupils started doing random acts of kindness towards other school children and teachers involved in a tragic incident. There is a whole wide world in need of more acts of kindness and children and adults alike should know that people really do appreciate their kind actions.

But being kind has helped the school in many ways. Eastbury Comprehensive has won awards in several spheres. From a prestigious award for teaching English, to awards for art and other extra-curricular activities, the school is proof that it is the quality of teaching that matters most and it is among the most improved schools in the UK.

Kindness, though, maintains a strong influence. The school in East London has adopted a “peer mediation” initiative in which pupils (13-15 year-olds) are trained to act as mediators in conflicts between students. This is a new approach to conflicts that could help us in our drive to eliminate bullying at schools.

In Malta, Fr Dionysius Mintoff founded the Peace Lab over 30 years ago. It runs an extensive adult education programme through various radio programmes and newspapers. The John XXIII Peace Laboratory of Malta is a living practical example of the role that a non-governmental, voluntary organization can play in shaping the conscience and opinion of the majority. It incorporates a group of people who have a similar philosophy of life. They recognize a responsibility to those less fortunate than themselves – a concern for others which is put into practice both as individuals and as an organisation.