The explosion of outrage sparked by reports that a Form Two student was last week beaten and seriously injured in a horrifying case of bullying at Nairobi School has not only served to remind us of the prevalence of the vice but also the justification for tough action to end it.
Apart from the death of a child in school, the other unthinkable news that can possibly reach a parent is that their son or daughter has been injured by schoolmates in a primitive bullying revelry.
That this particular incident happened in one of the country’s oldest and most respected national institutions is even more astonishing.
It evokes bad memories of a similar incident at yet another national school, Alliance High, in 2017, when more than 10 Form One students were reported beaten up badly by prefects. One of them was gravely injured and ended up using crutches.
While bullying is not a new phenomenon in a majority of schools countrywide and, to an extent, globally, it has often taken a subtle and harmless form, where senior students harass Form Ones to ‘welcome’ them to secondary or boarding life.
However, recent incidents show that the vice, which is more common among boys than girls in public schools, is taking a more violent and gruesome turn.
This is why we agree with Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha and his officers that the culprits must be reined in and severely punished to help in ridding schools of the menace.
As the authorities investigate the Nairobi School incident, we advocate a broader probe that looks into systemic gaps within schools that bullies could be taking advantage of to target their innocent, quiet and meek colleagues.
The school’s boarding master, discipline master and class teachers must be interrogated on how the bullies could have meted out such violence undetected.
Granted, teachers cannot be expected to be with the students on a 24-hour basis. Nonetheless, schools must put in place structures that allow learners to report suspicious behaviour to the authorities in confidence. It must also be made clear to students on the very first day they join school, that any form of harassment or violence will attract instant dismissal at the very least.
If schools are allowed to be breeding grounds for violence and intolerance, then the whole nation will be the ultimate loser because such behaviour will be replicated everywhere else.
The government must use Nairobi School as the poster child of a serious and sustained anti-bullying campaign across the entire education system. In the meantime, the investigations must be conducted thoroughly, made public and the culprits penalised.