I was fortunate enough to go to schools where the concept of bullying was unheard of. Where seasoned kids intimidating, teasing and in extreme cases inflicting physical pain on the new kids was not a thing. My school considered asking a student from a lower class for help at the canteen bullying, from the stories I had heard, that was good enough. In fact, being in form one or form five guaranteed one special treatment. A Deliberate action to make the new students feel welcome and covertly, to pre-empt bullying.
Many were not as lucky as I was. Lots of children went through the first two years of their secondary education in paralyzing fear of what happened when they woke up, when they run into an older student, or when they even as much as looked as somebody in a way they perceived as contemptuous.
Docile, frail, timid and Younger children often fell victim to bullying as they were seen as easy targets. Play things for the older kids who had made their bones through their own horrendous experiences.
It was the order of the day!
For most of the assailants, it was a rite of passage, a reward for making it through those awful years. Some, I guess had a flair for exerting power. Others, it was school culture. A play for respect. A popularity contest. Where your street cred rose as high as the number of kids you brought to their knees. And for the rest, inititation into adulthood.
This physically and pschologically torturous habit put students in a precarious position because snitches faced even worse retribution. With kids having nails drummed into their knees for stepping up and trying to correct the wrongs, it was a cross best carried silently.
So many children and young adults lived through their secondary school in mortal fear for their lives and hatred for school. They held deep contempt for these bullies and authority figures who did nothing to end their plight.
School did not make them better. With the direct results of bullying being decline in performance, depression and anxiety, loneliness and loss of interest in group activities, failure to make meaningful friendships and loss of the will to live, it is appalling how this habit took root in secondary schools for decades, and in some, till today.
Some people still face challenges in their adult lives because of the nightmares they lived through during their days in school. Broken confidence, depression, struggling interpersonal and communication skills, low self esteem, mental health problems and substance abuse have all been identified as long term effects of bullying.
The school bullies too reportedly experience some back lash years later, such as substance abuse, missed opportunities (from their victims), criminal convictions for abuse towards partners and peers and tendencies to develop anger management issues. Their power goes as far as the school gate, where life, an institution more permanent, begins.
My Respect and gratitude goes out to the administrators that never compromised on their stance against bullying, allowing their pupils to flourish in a stable and relaxed environment. And to all those teachers, friends and fellow students who mitigated the situation. Who acted on bullying and created a safe environment for children in school.
It would be such a shame to hear some of these atrocities are still committed in schools. I haven’t heard of any such experiences since I’ve been out of school, But my hope is that bullying is a thing of the past. That young boys and girls go to school without any fear of animosity, that they do not have to learn new hacks for survival against bullies.