Fiji Paralympic medalist leads fight against bullying | Pacific Beat

Fiji Paralympic medalist leads fight against bullying

Fiji Paralympic medalist leads fight against bullying

Updated 3 December 2012, 9:26 AEST

Fiji's first winner of a Paralympics gold medal, says anti-bullying classes should be compulsory in all Fijian schools.

Iliesa Delana, who lost his left leg in a bus accident at the age of three, says other children often left him out of games and activities because of his disability.

Delana is using his new profile to fight bullying at primary schools across Fiji.

Presenter:Stephanie Juleff

Speaker:Iliesa Delana, Fiji Paralympic gold medal winner

JULEFF: After his success in London, Fijians can't get enough of Iliesa Delana.On his return Iliesa was welcomed with a procession through the streets of Suva, cheered on by thousands of people, very different to the way he has sometimes been treated in the past

DELANA: From that time, you know, there was bullying, there was discrimination. Now every time I go to town, they look at me and want to shake hands with me.

JULEFF: The 27 year-old high jumper beat his Oceanic record to win the gold, with a jump of 1.74 metres - an achievement far out of reach for many people with two legs. But now he's turned his sights to a different obstacle. Nedal wants to stop bullying and discrimination in Fijian society, and he believes getting in early, when children are still at primary school, is the best place to start.

DELANA: Bullying is not a new issue in Fiji, especially in primary school and also in the village and I think i endured it because it's happening in Fiji everywhere, especially in the age of youth in Fiji. It started in primary school, and like I said I was one also being bullied when I was still in primary school expecially maybe in the sense of a person who has a disability, not only disability but the racism, and all his discrimination is in it, so I've been doing this to go into grassroot levels in primary schools to help them understand the negative points of bullying that will effect children. And it will also influence them when they grow up, so I think we are targeting the grassroots level, that's in primary schools, because they are the future for tomorrow, so that is one way I think that will decrease the level of bullying in the country.

JULEFF: Delana believes that the bullying he experienced, and any bullying against people with disabilities, is just like any other form of discrimination, and this is the problem that needs to be addressed; whether it be in the capital, Suva, or a village on a remote island.

DELENA: I think it is another way, bullying, is discrimination. From my experience in school it was, "Hey, you've got one leg," " you've got one hand," "hey, you're eye," you know, like all those things. Like we would do one lady, she was part Indian, and there's "you're part Indian, and you shouldn't be here in this school," that's all part of bullying. And I think also people more specifically in a wheelchair, and how they walk or how they talk, because of the disability, we have some people laugh at them. You know that's all part of of it. It happens everywhere in Fiji.

JULEFF: One of the challenges for the anti-bullying program is getting the message out to schools in rural and distant areas. People live on 110 of Fiji's 332 islands, and many of these remote areas take days to access by boat and don't have access to the internet... This is where Sunil Chandra gets involved. Sunil works at the Ministry for Education producing radio shows that are broadcast into classrooms via Radio Fiji, so that any teacher can use them as a resource.

CHANDRA: Whatever is being taught by a teacher in the classroom, a similar idea is being illustrated in the radio in a slightly different mode. Where children get to know stories in the forms of poems or in the form of songs, but at the same time they are making themselves enjoy the programs because, the entire day the teachers are with the children and they don't have any break. Our program when it goes, it seems there's another voice in the class which is enjoyed by the children.

JULEFF: Sunil has seen real progress when he goes out to visit schools, to monitor the program and also talk to the kids.

CHANDRA: We have seen children devoting time the way we have emphasised on the radio, so that gives a good impression on us that our programs are really effective. Our students are actually unting all the students in the class, and we have seen that when the program are there, these children don't have any discrimination.

JULEFF: School is out for the holidays now, but with their Paralympic champion Iliesa Delana on board speaking to school groups, kids all around Fiji will be rushing through the gates to get involved when the term starts back next January.

DELANA: Many people say it's good for me because of my achievement in the Paralympic games, but I think it's not that very important. I think it's one way that wil make the kids pay attention to look at an Olympic athlete to come and do that, I support that too, but I think the main thing is to give the point, the idea to them, what is anti-bullying. I'm glad also for the achievement so that it can take me to that level, and tell them the right way to go.

JULEFF: It seems he has already had an impact on the way Fijians think about how they treat other people. He's so popular, he can hardlyget away from the attention to consider his future and fit in his high jump training as well.

DELANA: Only time will see, at the moment I'm trying to get away from all the merry-merry, hippy-hippy party. In Fiji, everywhere, people want to see me and shake my hand, and call me to go here, go there.

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