As i have admitted in prior musings, a lot of the things I tend to talk about are things that we mention in the pub with a few of my fellow patrons. A topic that became an interesting discussion was regarding bullying. Here in most Zimbabwean schools, bullying is something that happens. It’s almost like a dark secret, but most people know that some sort of bullying is happening. This is all the way from the teachers to the ground staff. In fact, depending on the school that you go to in this country determines the extent of bullying that happens.
The interesting thing is that it was also a time aspect. What I mean by that is it depended very much on the age of the seniors and your peers. Post independence a great deal of the bullying was more racial motivated than anything else. Majority of the seniors in a lot of the private schools were white. It was a new concept for them to have spent most of their school life around other white people, so when eventually non white kids started coming through the ranks they were picked on first.
It was not unheard of to hear that there were some kids who were put into trucks and tossed down stairs, or the worst that i heard was someone was put in a trunk and the trunk was tossed in a swimming pool. These are much more extreme cases. These are much more terrifying that some of the acts that me and my peers were subjected to. Of course these were incidents that occurred in a very different time.
All in all as you become an adult and start working, you become attuned to bullying. The bullying that we may get subjected to is mainly in the work place. However as an adult you are well in your right to say no. Not only in your right, but you have a voice to speak up. When you are at school, sometimes it’s not as easy to say no. You know that if you do say no, what could happen will be worse than what is about to happen.
I did realise one thing from being bullied at school. It made me and most of my peers’ band together simply from a shared suffering. It did instil some militaristic sense of order as we knew what lines we couldn’t cross. For some people it made us hate the school we were at more, some people hated the seniors because they got constantly picked on. We also developed a mafia-esq silence when approached by figures of authority higher than the seniors. Of course this all depended on the extent of bullying.
There were different degrees of bullying that i experienced at my boarding school. There was the occasional physical bullying. Most of that was more of a punishment for breaking the rules, or for a poor performance by people in my block. We used to have blanket punishments that the whole age group of a house would get. Sometimes it would be because of one person being stupid, but we would all get punished. Funny thing is, there would be some people who would hate that individual for making everyone suffer, but there would also be other individuals who would take it on themselves to help that person to “save” everyone else.
There was also the mental bullying which was at times worse, but it helped some people to problem solve. I remember this one senior gave me some money, and asked me to go and buy something from the tuck shop (it’s like a little shop on the school campus that sells soft drinks, chocolates etc). The list he gave me exceeded the amount of money he gave me. He then added that he wanted MORE change than the money I gave him. This was one of the weirdest responses and I remember looking at the money in my hand and back to him and asking him “How?” He was not interested in the how. All he wanted was results. I eventually paid out of my own pocket for his things, so essentially he stole from me. That was mentally taxing on my then young mind. I hated it and felt that it was annoying. Of course thinking about it now, if someone wanted to do business with me and told me to invest and they would walk away with their investment and me nothing i would say no immediately. Maybe that’s what that experience somehow in a twisted way taught me.
The fact is that if you are in a schooling system that encourages you as a student to look forward to being in your last year of high school, and also encourages respect for seniority, there will be some sort of bullying that occurs. Be it to the junior first years, all the way through to your peers who had “quirks”. I don’t condone it, but it does do some character building. There have been other sad stories that I have heard where someone who has been bullied eventually takes their own life to escape, and those are cases where i cannot agree or condone. Unfortunately, bullying will and always will happen in some shape or form. The hope is that it is kept within the boundaries of fun and does not turn into abuse.