“…but why bother? No one cares…”
“I have been bullied all my life,” 10-year-old *Kofi said to the shock of us all in Readers’ Circle – a reading programme I have been running for 7-15-year olds in the last 3 years.
We are reading a book that’s heavily themed on bullying, and some of my 15 Readers were recounting their own bullying experiences. Interestingly, it was the boys amongst us who seemed to be the ones who were the more bullied gender.
Bullying, as defined by Merriam Webster’s dictionary, is the “abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful.” Bullying can be verbal and or physical, and from the recounts that some of my Readers shared, the verbal ones (name-calling and insults mainly) have hurt them the most.
“Why do you think people bully you, I ask them? The common reason shared, as we saw in the book we were reading, was “because they don’t like me.” How does someone just not like you? “Because they may be jealous of you,” 9-year-old *Rena responded, with a quizzical look on her face. “Have you ever been bullied, Miss Eugenia? The question caught me off guard; we are talking about your experiences and not mine, I thought quietly in my mind.
“Actually yes, I have ever been bullied,” I shakily managed to say. Images of me being bullied in my tween years flooded my thoughts. It was back in the ‘80s when we were more communal as a people in the city; my parents had a car-pooling arrangement with our neighbours whose children (3 boys) attended the same school as we (my younger brother and I) did. In the mornings, we’d join their car to school and in the afternoon my parents were responsible for bringing us all back home.
I was the only girl amidst boys in the car; interestingly, I was an only girl at home too. My parents, sticklers for time, would ensure we walked to our neighbours’ house, which was 2 houses away from ours, and arrived ten minutes before the agreed time. The principle of not keeping someone waiting for you when they’re doing you a favour is still one of my principles.
Let’s call our neighbours’ sons *Kwasi, *Kwaku and *Yaw; *Kwaku was the one who bullied me and made life unbearable for me. Whilst we sat and waited for them to finish their breakfast before we all head out to school, Kwaku would give me the meanest stare when I looked at him. I’ll stop looking at him, I thought. Then he would deliberately choose to walk right in front of me on his way to the kitchen and step hard on my foot on his way.
In the car, I was sandwiched between him, on my right-hand side, and my brother on my left-hand side; *Kwaku insisted that should be the seating arrangement. I would turn to my left-hand side to look out of the window (I dared not turn to look on my right, lest he had that intimidating and mean look for me).
He’d bring his left hand from behind me and push my left cheek sharply so that I would be forced to look straight; and say, in his then seemingly menacing voice, “look straight, ugly girl!”. Those painful words cut through me more than the physical act of stepping on my toes or pushing my neck around. He was older than and bigger than I was, and I feared him.
“Why didn’t you tell him to stop?”, *Nyra interrupts me suddenly. “Yes, Miss Eugenia why didn’t you tell his father, who was driving you? *Barbara quizzed, sounding frustrated. “I was paralysed with fear anytime I saw him”, I managed to say, tears springing to my eyes. But I now know that by not saying anything or standing up to him, I was rather encouraging him to continue bullying me”.
So, I do understand how you feel, *Kofi, and all of you who have been bullied. I made a mistake of not telling my parents or any adult and endured bullying; I may have survived it, but I know there are still some mental scars of my experience. You should not allow this to happen to you.
*Kofi then goes; “But why bother telling anyone? My Teachers don’t seem to care when I tell them, and my parents are busy. It’s alright, Miss Eugenia. I will just ignore them”. My heart sunk.
No child should resign themselves to a life of being bullied. Speak up, find someone who will listen and tell them; I am here. Send me an email ([email protected]) if you are being bullied but can’t find anyone to speak with.
*Real names changed
The writer is a passionate educator who makes learning fun for children under 18 through co-curricular programmes. Through her charity organisation, Young Educators Foundation (YEF) in Ghana, the programmes portfolios have expanded to include literacy programmes in local languages as well as public speaking programmes for the youth.
Based on her work in education and with children, Eugenia is the recipient of many nomination and awards such as a presidential award for the contribution to education over the past decade in 2018. In 2019, she was named as one of the 74 individuals in Those who Inspire Ghana, a global programme that identifies nationals whose experiences are worth sharing.
Eugenia believes that children are not the ‘future’, but rather the ‘present’ and so the need to invest in their total development. She is a regular contributor on radio and television shows as well as various public fora on this and related topics.