CAIRO – A growing number of British Muslim children have reported facing racist and xenophobic bullying in their schools, a UK charity group revealed, warning that far-right agenda on immigration was being taken into classrooms.
“There’s so much more of a focus in the news at the moment about immigrants... it’s a real discussion topic and children aren’t immune to the conversations that happen around them,” Sue Minto, head of ChildLine, told The Independent on Wednesday, December 8.
“Some children are being told, even if they’re UK born, to pack your bags and go back where you belong. It is very worrying, it’s a big increase. This past year, it really seems to be something children and young people are suffering with.”
The figures, release by ChildLine, revealed that more than 1400 children and young people contacted the helpline in 2013 to report racist bullying.
Marking 69 percent increase, the charity asserted that Islamophobia was a particular issue in schools, with young Muslims reporting that they are being called “terrorists” and “bombers” by classmates.
“We work with around 50,000 young people every year and issues around Islamophobia have been very prevalent over the past 12 to 18 months,” James Kingett, of the charity Show Racism The Red Card (SRTRC) which seeks to combat racism, said.
“That idea that all Muslims are terrorists or bombers is a particular problem. We’re getting that from kids with no Muslim classmates through to those in diverse schools with many Muslims.”
School bullying was not limited to Muslim children only.
The charity referred to a worrying increase in the number of children needing help for xenophobic bullying which coincides with rising political hostility to immigration.
Moreover, children who have poor English or a strong accent are often called “freshies” – an abusive term that highlights their struggle to fit in.
“We are doing work on the impact of far-right groups such as the English Defence League on children’s attitudes,” Kingett said.
“Often children are picking up language at home and from parents and taking that to be fact. The rhetoric at the moment around immigration is incredibly pervasive. The prominence of the immigration debate may have had a knock-on effect, filtering down in classrooms.”
Making things worse, many children said that reporting bullying problems to their teachers were unhelpful and ineffective.
Others who were encouraged to speak out in assembly said that the problem was advertised, leading to more abusive behavior.
“This kind of bullying seems to be happening much more at school and on the way to school than on social media,” Minto, ChildLine head, said.
“Some of the children who’ve spoken to us say that they’ve told a teacher and they didn’t do anything. Another said ‘I told a teacher and it became a topic in assembly,’ which is horrendous.”
The ChildLine report also found there was a dramatic rise in those seeking help with online abuse, with counseling for cyber bullying up 87 per cent in a year.
The charity also reported a 41 per cent increase in contacts about self-harm and a 33 per cent increase in young people feeling suicidal.
“No child should have to suffer the fear and victimisation of bullying. Every school must have measures in place by law to prevent it and, thanks to our new curriculum, children will soon be taught how to stay safe online, including cyber-bullying, from the age of five,” a Department for Education spokeswoman said.
“We have strengthened the powers that teachers have to tackle bullying. They can search pupils for banned items, delete inappropriate images from phones, and give out same-day detentions.
“We are also providing more than £4m to a range of anti-bullying organizations to help schools develop strategies to tackle the problem and deal with the impact when it occurs,” she added.
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority, estimated at nearly 2.5 million.
There are 400,000 Muslim students in British schools, according to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).
There are nearly 90,000 Muslim students studying in higher education institutions in the European country.
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