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Learning English - Words in the News
15 November, 2006 - Published 13:13 GMT
School bullying in Japan
Education Minister Bunmei Ibuki
Education Minister Bunmei Ibuki

In Japan two more children have killed themselves after being bullied at school. 5 children have taken their own lives since August. A headteacher has also been found hanged in a forest after he was criticised for his response to a bullying incident in his school. This report from Chris Hogg:

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Both of the children who killed themselves this weekend had been bullied. A twelve year old girl jumped to her death from a high building after her classmates teased her for being short. A fourteen year old boy hanged himself after his classmates tried to extort money from him.

It's not new of course. Japan's schools have long had a problem with bullying. After the suicides of five young children in less than four months, there's more attention being paid to the problem, but no-one can agree what to do about it.

More attention, of course, can create its own difficulties. The head teacher killed himself after giving a news conference in which he was criticised for his handling of an extortion incident involving a pupil at his school.

Suicide in Japan is not just seen as an easy way out. Traditionally, it was regarded as a responsible way to deal with a problem when faced with no other option. But last week, several schoolchildren wrote to the Education minister threatening to kill themselves because no-one would help them. He responded by urging students not to write to him, but instead to try find people they could talk to about their difficulties.

It's awkward. Some fear publicising such cases increases the likelihood others will try to copy them. Others though, say the failures in the system need to be exposed.

Chris Hogg, BBC News, Tokyo

Listen to the words

made fun of or deliberately embarrassed by someone for their amusement

to extort
to get something, usually money, from someone by using criminal force or by threatening

deliberately killing oneself

regarded as
thought of, believed to be

choice; alternative possible action

warning someone that you will do something violent or embarrassing if they don’t do what you want them to do

encouraging, strongly suggesting something

difficult, not easy to know what is best

possibility, strong probability

revealed, made known to more people

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