JAPAN. Japanese children who are victims of bullying are being encouraged to skip school by a teachers' union in a bid to prevent student suicides.
Suicides and suicide threats from bullied students hit the headlines last year when a record 98,175 students dropped out of high school.
As dissatisfaction mounts with the education system, the Japan Teacher's Union (JTU) has declared "the right of the child to be absent from school", at its annual conference.
Truants and parents severely criticised teachers during the four-day meeting. It was claimed that the violation of students' human rights by teachers was one of the major causes of bullying.
A union spokesman said it may be true that teachers encourage bullying and cases would be investigated. Many parents at the conference spoke out against teachers who actively encouraged the baiting of 'weak' or 'unusual' pupils.
In Japan there is the saying 'that the nail that sticks up will be hammered down'.
The JTU decided to put out a non-legal statement that children have a right to skip school to prevent further suicides and misery amongst victims of bullying who fell compelled to attend school.
"Japanese law guarantees the right of the children to go to school to study, and stipulates the obligation of the parents to send children to school, " said Mr Susumu Hida director of JTU's International Department.
"The right of the child to be absent from school mentioned by the Japan Teachers' Union does not mean a right in legal terms, as elementary and lower secondary education is compulsory."
Mr Hida added that it is important for the teacher to allow those children, who are hurt mentally, if not physically, to stop attending classes. The union blamed the tendency to "assess children only on the basis of deviation value in the context of highly competitive entrance exam race".
Those children, who are placed outside of the scale of deviation value, the JTU argues, are not recognised both in the school and society, and they often fall a victim to bullying and the refusal to go to school.
As the competition for places in good colleges intensifies so do incidents of bullying and their severity. One case of bullying in 1994 that led to 13-year-old boy Kiyoteru Okochi taking his life 1994 sparked a national outrage against 'ijime' (bullying). A suicide letter, left by this pupil of a school in central Japan, detailed the systematic torture at the hands of four of his classmates.
His death also preceded a spate of suicides and suicide threats from other victims of bullying.