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MT 19 October 2014

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maltatoday, Sunday, 19 OctOber 2014 News 17 Cortis reassures that "individual sessions are held with the victims so that they can voice their concerns in a safe environment, while building healthy relationships with different members of the support staff". She is heartened by the fact that "we get self-referrals nowadays: stu- dents are coming to us themselves – our team is known to the school children, and this helps us a lot," Cortis said, insisting that the focus is on the "well being" of the student all throughout. Though she claims that parents are ultimately "the best partners" when it comes to combating bul- lying – and Cortis insists that her colleagues take a 'zero tolerance' approach whenever they notice that problematic family structures are at the core of bullying behaviour – she claims that the attitude of some par- ents leaves a lot to be desired. "While holding awareness talks for parents, the audience that we usu- ally target does not turn up and it is therefore difficult to reach them… so we end up "preaching to the con- verted". underway, teOdOr reLJIc considers the contemporary scenario enduring, aspect of the educational prospect: bullying ZiguZajg tackles bullying IT'S hardly surprising that an annual 'arts festival for children and young people' has bullying as one of its themes. It's a powerful emotional cue into a story, as play- wright and performer Veronica Stivala notes. "Bullying is always good fod- der for drama. You have strong emotions, a really tense group dy- namic and always something that happens behind the actual 'crime scene'," Stivala, co-writer and per- former for Cookie and the Art of Bullying, said. Stivala's show, co-written by Al- exander Sobolla, deals with a six- year-old girl who grows tired of being bullied and decides to take matters into her own hands. She strikes a deal with the 'head bully', Rough: he will teach her the 'art of bullying' in exchange for delicious pastries from her mother's bakery. But she soon discovers that bully- ing 'isn't all it's cracked up to be'. "The issue is a very real one, and a very big problem, and one we felt needed to be tackled," Stivala said about the show, which will be per- formed at St James Cavalier as part of this year's edition of ZiguZajg. Stivala is confident that artistic works can have a hand in rais- ing awareness and even real-life change when it comes to bullying, but "only if the audience is prop- erly involved in a story, and not in a lesson on how to behave cor- rectly". "If they are interested in the story and feel for the victims in the play, and if they see that something is just wrong with the act of bully- ing, even with the bully suffering on some level too, they may take something away with them. But only if it is a heartfelt experience and not a school lesson on stage instead of in a classroom," Sti- vala said, emphasising that "a play needs to touch the heart and not the head". Stivala's Italian ZiguZajg com- patriots, Teatro Distinto, will also be presenting a show that should strike a chord with kids who feel marginalised or vulnerable. Aptly titled The Black Sheep, the non- verbal performance is born out of a collaboration between young kindergarten and primary school, and tells the story of a black sheep who "in his diversity and solitude, [helps us] discover a rich and emotional world which affects the whole flock". "Our main character is deeply vulnerable, yet he defends his ide- as, his values. He is sad at times. He is lonely. Yet, he remains the way he is. He does not try to change himself in order to please others," Teatro Distinto's Dan- iel Gol said, when asked whether what he hoped children would get out of the show. "At the end his solution wins, be- cause he never betrays his values. We are satisfied when at the end of the show, children agree and welcome diversity, contrast, coex- istence, vulnerability. They like it – they feel relieved." ZiguZajg will be taking place in various venues around Valletta from November 17 to 23. For more information about the festival, log on to Bullying in Malta The statistics Malta Union of Teachers report – 2013 2009 – 2010: 117 cases in primary schools and 97 in secondary schools 2010 – 2011: 87 in primary schools and 95 in secondary schools 2011 – 2012: 104 in primary schools and 88 in secondary schools 2013 – 2014: (May) 107 cases in primary schools and 97 in secondary schools Progress in International Reading Literacy Study 2011 42% of Maltese pupils indicated that they hardly ever experience bullying, which is lower than the international average (47%). 36% of Maltese pupils indicated that they were bullied on a monthly basis, at par with canada but slightly higher than england (35%) and Italy (33%). Similarly the proportion of Maltese pupils being bullied on a weekly basis (22%) was marginally higher than the international average (20%). the scale score that measures bullying at school ranges from 11.4 (azerbaijan) to 9.1 (trinidad and tobago and Qatar). Malta's mean scale score (9.8) is marginally below the international average and is comparable to Spain (9.8), canada (9.8) and england (9.9) and Islamic republic of Iran (9.9). Source: PIRLS Malta Report 2011 For more information about Malta Mum, log on to For more information about Student Psycho-Social Services email or call 2123 3698, 2122 5285 Sandra Cortis, Services Manager at Student Psycho-Social Services. PHOTO BY CHRIS MANGION Veronica Stivala, co-writer and performer, Cookie and the Art of Bullying. PHOTO BY ELISA VON BROCKDORFF AND ANDREW SCHEMBRI The Black Sheep by Teatro Distinto

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