How your child is going to be bullied through high school

I sleep a lot. I can fall asleep anywhere. On a wooden bench, on a carpeted floor. If you allow me to be comfortable enough, I can fall asleep no matter where I am. Sometimes, I tend to believe sleeping is my hidden talent. It used to land me in trouble a lot during my high school days.

At one time, I was almost suspended for ‘abusing the school priest’ because I had chosen to miss the morning service and sleep. Another time, I slept through the night preps and got locked inside the classroom till 1 am. Preps used to end at 10 pm.

One day, I fell asleep during a Biology class. This was not your normal ‘fishing’ type of sleep. I laid my head on the window slab, supported my chin with my wrists, and went to sleep staring straight at the teacher. After shouting at me to wake up (with a few obscenities in between, I guess) and failing, he asked my deskmate to shake me awake. And I woke up as if I had been doing something totally normal.

“You are suffering from lack of sexual intercourse,” he retorted at me.The events that followed after that incident probably need the help of a therapist to be narrated. 

 

The recently released KCPE results brought joy among parents across the country. Even better was the announcement by the government that all those who sat exams would get a place to pursue secondary education. Given Kenyan parents’ reactions whenever kids go home for holidays, most are can’t wait for January to ship them away to secondary school.

Your only worry is that they are probably going to get bullied. Especially after shocking revelations of extreme bullying in some of Kenya’s top schools last year. You are probably giving him talks on how to defend himself/herself against bullies.

“Stand your ground.” “Don’t be a weakling.” “Report the bullies to the school administration.” But have you for a moment thought that the people you are expecting to offer him protection could turn out to be the bullies? Have you? Teachers are saints and anything against them is just slander by a kid who is tired of school.

Dream crushers

Yes! Teachers are probably going to bully your ‘baby’ more than their fellow students. And it is going to start as soon as they set their foot in the school.

Some teacher, consumed by a false sense of self-importance, is going to give your kid a long look then ask them “how did you make it to this school?” On the surface, it looks like an innocent statement. A joke even. But what it means is “you don’t look like you belong here”. And just like that, your child’s sense of belonging will be taken away, and they’ll probably spend the next four years of their life (if they have a strong will) wishing he was elsewhere.

After that, every teacher who sets foot in their class will want to know what they want to be when they grow up. To some teachers, they ask that just as a conversation starter, and maybe to get to know where the student’s interests lie. But some sadist teacher will judge your ability to achieve your dream by the shape of your head, how you speak etc.

Some also believe that you are aiming too low for someone in that school by going for some careers. Believe me, some teachers thought I had no ambition for wanting to be a teacher. Up to now, I am still trying to understand the irony of that!

Image courtesy: Dr. Deb blog

Proper correction and molding will take a backstage for “You want to be a doctor/ pilot etc with this kind of habit?” With every mistake. Some become physically violent under the excuse of “We have to whip out this laziness if you are going to be a doctor.”

I am not against corporal punishment, I have never been and will never be, but what goes on inside most staffrooms and classrooms is not punishment but lynching. My deskmate was once hit with a trough for not completing his assignment.

Bullied right under your nose

However, the most common bullying by teachers happens right under the noses of parents during parents’ days or visiting days. Some schools insist on the child and their parent getting a session with their teachers so as to chart ways to improve their performance. This is a great and noble idea for the moment but on hindsight, probably not. Most teachers take this opportunity to set the parents against their sons and daughters.

Such teachers rarely have a positive comment about the student to tell the parent. These reports are mostly made up or exaggerated. Did you skive dawn once? You have never attended preps since your first day in the school, and you probably skip classes too. The Madam caught you with a dirty collar when she was on duty weeks ago, you are a very dirty student. And she suspects you sold off your new uniform so as to buy mandazis.

Parents, in their usual African nature, side with the teacher without bothering to find out if the allegations are true or hearing your side of the story. They don’t care whether if that time you were found sleeping in the dorm during night preps was because you were sick. If you had been sick, the teacher would have phoned them. How dare you lie straight-faced right in front of the teacher? That proves their other allegations against you!

I am not even going to start about sex predators. Teachers preying on students they should be protecting against sexual exploitation. It is not only your daughter at risk here, your son too is. I know someone who sired a kid with his teacher (sorry for snitching!)

Be supportive

Dear parent, it is going to be a difficult four years for your kid. Very difficult! And no, bullying doesn’t stop when they complete Form One. Only the other students stop bullying them. The school will bully them even on the day they go back to collect their certificates. Protect them.

I’m not saying you walk guns blazing into TSC offices demanding someones sacking whenever your child complains of bullying by their teachers. Sometimes, all they need is someone to reassure them that it will be over ‘soon.’ To tell them to be strong. Be there for them. Show them you understand what they are going through.

Don’t be a party to the bullying. And when things go to the extreme, sit down with the school administration and discuss it. This is not to say you request a meeting with every complaint, that will probably earn them further victimization.

I wish your ‘baby’ all the best in their secondary education. Congratulations to them for passing their KCPE.

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