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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Design of present schools ideal for bullies

Prof Tajuddin Rasdi says the buildings provide too many 'hidden and negative areas' that allow for bullying to take place out of sight.
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PETALING JAYA: The present day designs of public school buildings are a perfect cover for bullying as many have “hidden and negative areas” within its confines, a private university professor says.
Tajuddin Rasdi, professor of architecture at UCSI University, said the rows of classrooms in present day public schools were located too far away from the headmaster’s office, library, resource centre, book shop, teachers’ room and workers’ lounge.
There were also too many concealed areas such as the toilets as well as leftover spaces at the back of school buildings where unwanted materials or broken furniture were left to pile up.
“More surveillance is needed. In prison architecture, lookout towers are strategically placed so that 100% of the external spaces can be seen with the naked eye to prevent prisoners escaping.
“I am not suggesting that we turn our public schools into prisons but the principle of maximum visual surveillance can be implemented in a less intimidating manner,” he told FMT.
He was commenting on ways to reduce the incidence of bullying in public schools.
In recent years Malaysians had watched with mounting horror several video clips of students bullying others in schools.
Two recent deaths involving student bullies that shocked the nation have illustrated the worrying trend.
T Nhaveen, 18, died in Penang on June 15 after being repeatedly beaten with helmets, burned on his back and having an object thrust into his anus by a group of teenagers.
The case followed that of navy cadet Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain, 21, who died on June 1 after succumbing to horrifying injuries inflicted by his university mates. According to a source, Zulfarhan was tortured for two days with a belt, rubber hose, hot iron and hanger.
As one way to stop bullying in schools, Tajuddin suggested the building of U-shaped schools.
“At the centre-end of each U-shaped block, on every floor, there should be a square glass room. I calculated that eight classrooms can form the U-shaped floor with this square glass room overlooking each classroom,” he said, explaining that this transparent room would provide clear visual and acoustic surveillance of all the classrooms on the floor and allow its occupants to hear any screams for help.
“These square glass rooms can function as the teachers’ room. At the moment, all teachers are placed in a single large room.
“I don’t understand why such a ‘headmaster-teacher’ feudalistic arrangement is favoured. If the teachers are distributed to the many glass rooms, it will not only provide visual surveillance to enhance security but also provide a better feeling of individuality and dignity to the teachers,” he said.
As for the toilets, he said they were built at the end of blocks which offered a concealed space for students to bully others.
“The toilet is a favourite bullying spot. Therefore, toilets should be located within the administrators’ visual surveillance. Architects can paint the doors and walls in a nice colour, and beautify them with potted plants.
“I would like for toilets to look just like those at the rest and recreation facilities along our expressways which resemble beautiful gardens rather than traditional outhouses.
“The toilet walls should not reach the ceiling to create the idea of openness and not offer total isolation from visual and auditory senses. The cubicles must allow screams and shouts to be heard,” he said.
The professor also suggested the government segregate toilets according to age, and not gender alone.
His third suggestion was to do away with leftover spaces usually located at the back of schools.
“To eliminate bullying, there should not be any ‘back’ area where broken furniture or other stuff are left to pile up. All sides of the school must be designed as a ‘front’.”
Tajuddin said play spaces used during recess must also be segregated.
He said when he was studying for his PhD in Edinburgh, Scotland, his two daughters went to a public elementary school there, where there were three segregated play spaces for different age groups supervised by recess monitors who were special workers or teachers.
“It is high time we implement these practices to prevent our children falling victim to bullies,” he added.
He said public works department architects did not consider issues like bullying, kidnapping, vehicular accidents and students falling from corridors on upper floors, stairwells and windows when designing schools.
However, he said, it was time to think of new designs as the present ones contributed to bullying in schools.
He said the existing school designs of concrete blocks, in use since the early days of independence, had contributed much to the country’s maturing into the present state.
“They are easy to construct, economic in some respects and also flexible for multiple use.
“However, in the wake of changing needs and educational methodology as well as the call for green designs, these standard designs must be put out to pasture.
“Malaysians want a safer design for their children,” he said. -FMT

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