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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

What Netflix’s ’Al-Rawabi School For Girls’ tells us about bullying


From a counsellor’s perspective, there are many takeaways from the new Netflix show ‘Al-Rawabi School for Girls.’ Bullying is a disruptive imbalance of power, writes Chereen Shurafa. 

Whether it leaves behind detrimental mental health effects or physical harm, it is necessary to recognise that bullying always comes with consequences. Although the Jordan based limited series – ranked Top 10 in Qatar – ends on a dark note, it is a fierce reminder that bullying is universal. 

It also goes to show what happens not just when the tables turn, but when the table is flipped and the balance is ultimately overthrown. 

While there are many takeaways from the show, it can be agreed upon that bullying has damaging effects. Careful not to ruin the plot, it is important to understand that bullying takes place everywhere. Whether it is in a school setting, within family, or at work – bullying is not limited in where it occurs. 

However, from watching the show we learn that while it unfortunately cannot always be prevented, the effects of bullying can be alleviated if there is accountability and the right support is applied. 

The character ’Mariam,’ played by Andria Tayeh, was mercilessly bullied by the antagonists at the time, ‘Layan’ played by Noor Taher, ’Rania’ played by Joanna Arida, and ’Roqayya’ played by Salsabiela A. 

The old adage ’sticks and stones might break my bones, but words could never hurt me’ tested false, because she suffered pain in both ways. However, it was possible for Mariam to recover if she had two things: advocacy and support. 

Instead, she was bullied by everyone and that includes her very own family. 

Often, it is commonly spoken about that the bullied falls into deep mental health struggles and becomes vulnerable, but there is also the flip side: the bullied can also become the bully. This is because when the bullied individual is not heard, a burning feeling of anger and resentment can be lit up inside. 

This can lead to hateful feelings that quickly turn into actions. From ’Al-Rawabi School for Girls,’ we are reminded that indeed, anything is possible when it comes to bullying. And in the real world? This echoes the same exact note, because realistically speaking: being treated unjustly leads to just that – natural feelings of pent up frustration and disappointment towards anyone that has let you down. 

When it comes to bullying, it is important to listen to the victim. 

If in a school setting, it is necessary for there to be a proactive counsellor that does their part to ensure voices are heard. It cannot be denied that sometimes corruption takes place, but in this case, it is extremely important for parents to listen to their children’s voice and advocate for them. 

Childhood and teenage years are focused on building trust between parents and their children, breaking that trust when a child speaks up about being treated badly by someone is difficult to be reversed. This can also be applied to adults, opening up about being bullied can be seen as an expression of vulnerability. 

If shunned or denied support, it can become challenging to open up again. A helpful takeaway the show provides us with is the importance of not communicating to make a point, but really making a sincere effort to comprehend the thoughts and feelings of an individual when they need it the most. 

If there is one main factor about bullying that ‘Al-Rawabi School for Girls’ leaves us with after watching the limited yet intense series, it is that not only was Mariam let down by the school system’s inability to counter bullying due to conflict of interest and faulty support. 

Ultimately, Layan was also let down. 

As we see throughout the plot, a change of heart is possible for anyone. After all, kindness is not limited to a certain type of mankind. 

Bullying is not something to brush under the table or unjustly neglect. If acted upon concisely and sincerely, it can positively change lives. If from the start, those that need to learn are taught how to sit in their chairs correctly, then the table will not be flipped, broken, or turned. 

If you or someone you know has experienced bullying, remember that it is more than okay to seek help. 

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