Since this year began, our neighbours in Kenya have been going through the worst period of their history, with violence rocking almost all parts of the once prosperous and peaceful East African nation.
And Kenya’s problems may not come to an end soon. As people celebrated Valentine’s Day on Thursday last week, Kenya’s leading paper, Daily Nation reported death of one, Bernard Makau, a form two student of Koelel Secondary School.
Gilgil who died due to injuries he sustained after severe beatings from his schoolmates in a bullying frenzy they loved to call a ‘graduation’ ceremony. The paper had pictures of the boy’s sister sobbing endlessly at the loss of her brother in such a reckless way.
Try and think about this for a minute, you send your boy to school and the next thing you hear is that he has died after some awful ‘graduation’ ceremony. Bullying is a very dangerous habit and therefore it should not, even for a second, be given a chance to thrive in any form.
A child comes to school to learn from his/her teachers and not from unruly students. Head teachers and anyone responsible for students’ discipline should deal squarely with this problem.
As a head teacher you can not enjoy the moment of informing a parent that her child has died under such inexcusable circumstances. This problem is not in Kenya alone.
I remember some years back when a student in a Ugandan school (Namilyango College) was also beaten to death by ‘older’ students of the school. Here in Rwanda, extreme cases of bullying are quite rare but it’s still a common practice.
Bullying usually takes the form of older students enthusiastically teasing the new students in demand for some kind of ‘respect.’ It is often considered a ‘ritual’ in most schools where the older students seek to ‘initiate’ the new comers into the school culture.
This then creates a cycle as those teased will then look out for a chance to do the same to others that will come after them. By the way, I was also bullied in my senior one at Busoga College Mwiri (Uganda).
The major problem with bullying is that in most cases the students bullied will rarely report the matter to those in authority because they are told to be that if they do then worse punishments will be awaiting then from the big boys or girls of the school.
Looking back at the experience I got from bullying, all I see is unruly and low achieving students trying to boost their empty egos by teasing the weaker ones. They try to drive fear into them in order to draw the respect they have failed to get through academic, disciplinary or even sports achievements.
This habit seems to be more common in the boys’ only schools than in the girls’ or mixed school. Again, the habit appears much more in the boarding schools than day schools.
All in all this is something that must not be allowed to develop in any educational institution. Bullying has got lasting psychological problems that it leaves on the victims.
They forever leave in fear of the older students coupled with the fear of speaking out or reporting the cases to the authorities.
The problem may be realised a little too late as the of Makau who lost his life. Students should be taught to respect each other.
The fact that they all pay the same school dues and wear the same uniform is reason enough for mutual respect to prevail. No one is above the law and those engaged in the habit of bullying should be dealt with decisively.