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Last Updated: Monday, 20 November 2006, 05:28 GMT
Turning the tables on the bullies
By Hannah Goff
Education reporter, BBC News

People used to push Samira Mohamed about a bit.

A group of her classmates called her names and picked on her, saying she had a silly second name.

She was an easy target because she had moved classes at George Mitchell school in Leyton, east London, and was the new girl in the room.

"My friends told me to go and tell a teacher but I wasn't confident enough to do that," said the 14-year-old.

Samira Mohamed
Samira is now friends with the people who used to bully her

Instead she turned to a group of pupils set up within the school known as FAB - Fighting Against Bullies.

The FAB pupils spoke to the people who had been making her miserable, explained the situation and got them to stop.

Samira said: "They sorted it out for me and we became friends. Not best friends but enough for us to be nice to each other in class."

These simple steps completely changed Samira's daily experience of school.

Now she feels safe and free to get on with her lessons in peace.

But this wasn't enough for her.

She wanted her fellow pupils to benefit from her experience and decided to join the other FAB pupils in their battle against the bullies.

"I wanted to make a difference and stop other people from being bullied," she explained.

And after some training in peer mentoring and role playing activities, that is exactly what she did.

It is very good to know that you are safe in school
Samira Mohamed

"Now school is great. It's a really fantastic experience I am learning things every day.

"And it is very good to know that you are safe in school."

Members of FAB act as a sort of school neighbourhood watch.

Not only do they step in if they see someone being picked on, they keep an eye out for pupils sitting on their own or for anyone that looks upset.

"Sometimes you might see someone crying so you go up and ask them what's going on.

"Maybe you get them a drink and they say that someone's pushing them around," said Samira.

Samira and her friends in FAB
The FAB members act as a sort of school neighbourhood watch

She says half the time bullies do not even realise what they are doing.

"People don't always show that they are upset because if you cry it's like they have won," she said.

This means the people who are doing the hurting don't always know that they are being bullies, she added.

In these cases the FAB members will go and let the bullies know that this is what they are being and this is sometimes enough to get the matter resolved.

'In control

Nathalie Chambers, a citizenship teacher who co-ordinates FAB at the school, said the system worked because it was the pupils who were completely in control.

"It's something that the kids completely own.

"I hardly need to do anything. I only need to get involved if a child is in danger," she said.

"Considering that a lot of the children involved are the ones that have been bullied - they are amazingly confident and bubbly."

Lindsay Gilbert, who oversees peer mentoring schemes in schools around England for ChildLine, said programmes like FAB enlisted pupils natural sense of justice and encouraged them to be emotionally literate.

"As adults we are often in danger of doing something that we think will be good for young people opposed to doing what they want."

"Of course parents' main concern is that their children achieve academically.

"But bullying can be really, really frightening and children won't be able to do that unless they feel safe and happy at school in the first place."





VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
A victim of bullying tells her story



SEE ALSO
Boost for bullying mentor scheme
20 Nov 06 |  Education

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