Code of silence that makes bullying thrive

Friday March 3 2017

A Form One student at Alliance High School in Nairobi shows a bloodstained vest. Clothes were soaked in his blood when prefects beat him at the institution, he said. PHOTO | DUN SIKOYO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A Form One student at Alliance High School in Nairobi shows a bloodstained vest. Clothes were soaked in his blood when prefects beat him at the institution, he said. PHOTO | DUN SIKOYO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JOE MBUTHIA
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There are those parents who await school opening with glee, knowing their pesky children will become someone else’s problem (mainly teachers). But then, there are those who approach school opening with trepidation, especially when your child is in the lower forms – one and two.

The former simply want someone else to take over their parenting role, with all its attendant problems. But the latter have either heard of bullying in the schools, or have noticed something amiss in their children when they come home for holidays.

A child may become withdrawn, no longer socializing with his former friends or even opening up to siblings. Some lock themselves in their rooms for long periods of time. Some take long periods to shower and even become more secretive while dressing.

This is every parent’s nightmare. What if? What if? All kinds of thoughts pass through a parent’s mind after long periods of absence from their children after they were accustomed to seeing them every evening.

Could he have picked up a drug habit? What if he was beaten up and got internal injuries? What if he was sodomised? What if whatever they did to him will scar him for life? These and many other concerns form a kaleidoscope of fears running through a parent’s mind.

In many cases, many parents do not want to ask – for fear of alienating their child from them – so they resort to all kinds of interventions. Maybe the parish priest can make him talk, maybe the uncle. In some extreme cases, they resort to counselling.

But the biggest problem is attempting to get the story. Sweaters and other personal belongings are “lost”, but in reality, these are appropriated by older boys through bullying. Every time they come for holidays, something is “lost”.

And they do not want to talk about it. Why? Because they fear being called snitches. It is like omertà, the Mafia code of silence. Even in prison, no one is despised as much as a snitch. So they will not tell you, and if they do, they will beg you not to come to school and complain because it will boomerang on them. And so the bullying cycle continues.

Joe Mbuthia is production editor, ‘Daily Nation’.