Two American education specialists stress that building a protective, nurturing environment among students and paying due attention to school psychological counseling can be key to curbing school violence in Vietnam.
A number of brutal beatings among middle school students and, allegedly, college students have emerged and gone viral online in the past several days.
These incidents suggest school violence in Vietnam may be spiraling out of control to a worrying extent.
Earlier this month, a group of four or five female seventh-graders at a school in the Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh cornered and beat a defenseless girl, who was their classmate, right in their classroom.
The aggressive youngsters even hit the girl hard in the head with a stack of plastic chairs.
Many bystanders, including male students, looked on indifferently and even filmed the assault and posted it on the Internet.
This still image taken from a video clip shows a fight among a group of female students in Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Another ninth grader was also given a beating by her schoolmates and their friends inside her school in Dong Thap Province, also located in the Mekong Delta, on Friday last week. She fainted soon after the incident.
Another video clip, which has gone viral since March 16, captured two girls punching each other hard in a less crowded area in Hau Giang, another Mekong Delta province.
One girl, who was later identified as a ninth grader at a local middle school, passed out and was seen lying stretched out on the road.
Several of her schoolmates and acquaintances cheered on and filmed the relentless “duel.”
These still images taken from a video clip which has gone viral since March 16, 2015 capture two girls giving each other a savage beating in a less crowded area in the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang. One of the two girls, who was later identified as a ninth grader at a local middle school, passed out and was seen lying stretched out on the road following the heated "duel." Photo: Tuoi Tre
Constant surveillance, self-monitoring
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters interviewed two expats who have worked in education for years.
Harmony Linder, an American education counselor, has worked for almost two years in Vietnam.
She said that her job is helping students in their mental and behavioral development by means of different educational approaches, and sharing her experience and knowledge with Vietnamese teachers in how to cope effectively with troublesome students and those who struggle to communicate and mingle with their peers.
“Bullying is always a thorny nuisance in the U.S. and other countries, and leaves lasting adverse impacts on those bullied and intimidated. The problem has always deserved our due attention,” Linder added.
Schools in the U.S. have organized many activities to combat bullying and assaults, including heart-to-heart talks with troubled students themselves, their parents, and teachers.
The talks and counseling sessions are accompanied by stern warnings and unforgiving penalties, which are applied on repeat offenders.
“There’s hardly a case when a student bullies another right in their first meeting. The bullying behavior is more often than not the result of a behavior chain with mounting intensity,” she explained.
Linder pointed out that the hardest part lies in monitoring and identifying such disruptive, aggressive behavior in its infancy.
Teachers should thus learn how to turn potential bullies’ classmates into “antennae” and “informants.”
Such improper behavior which has the potential to turn into violence is thus rectified immediately before it is too late.
Photos of school violence are seen on a laptop screen during an extra-curricular activity held at a middle school in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City in an attempt to solve the issue. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Meanwhile Gareth Katz, a teacher at Yola, an English and overseas studies counseling center based in Ho Chi Minh City, underlined the need to build psychological counseling rooms in schools.
“Such counseling is a must to cope effectively with physical, mental, and virtual bullying amidst the Internet boom. It will allow oppressed students to open their hearts to the counselors and become better armed to face their intimidators,” he noted.
Katz added such qualified counseling services are offered through the entire schooling system in the U.S., from elementary schools to universities, where they serve as effective emotional outlets for students, as well as a source of mentoring and a life skills provider.