'It was announced in the dining hall that I should go to the hall and remove my mattress and put it in the sun because I had urinated on my bed the previous night. Something which was not true. It was a big disgrace to me and I could not make friends…' Some of these narratives are a bit too common in our Senior High Schools (SHS).
But previously, I thought bullying was rampant only in the Senior High Schools until I entered the university.
This act of intimidating or threatening a weaker person to do something or persistently making other people's life unpleasant is too rife in our schools.
Bullying manifests itself in many forms; it could be physical, social, verbal, cyber and psychological.
To begin with, turning a junior colleague into a punching bag is not the only form of physical bullying. You will bear with me that others steal or intentionally damage their weaker colleagues' property.
In a research by Dr Kwasi Antiri, a lecturer at the University of Cape Coast, he revealed that a student was forced into a trunk just because he had a small frame. This boy had to be sent to the hospital after he was removed from the trunk.
Socially, students are bullied when their colleagues spread rumours, backbite and/or exclude them from their peers. Even though this is a common feature in SHS it is more prevalent in the tertiary institutions.
As many tertiary institutions don't wear uniforms some colleagues who are not able to afford new clothes are mostly avoided by their colleagues.
A level 200 student of a public university recounted his ordeal. He and his roommate had walked side by side, sharing thoughts happily. Suddenly, about 500 metres away from their campus his colleague started hurrying, gradually widening the gap between them.
Looking at his friend's black shoe reflecting the soft rays of the morning sun and his well-pressed clothes emitting rosy fragrance, which were diminishing by every step, he wondered why this abrupt act by his friend.
Sharing this with a bowed head he said: “It didn't happen once. I had only one shoe then,” he added.
Others are ridiculed because of the way they speak. Those who are not able to make their grades are treated as crudely made statutes. As if some people are not worth a pesewa, their mates throw jeers at them because of their ethnic background.
Words are powerful! But they are employed by some students to crush the self-esteem of their peers. Verbal bullying is calling your peers names, teasing and threatening them.
It is a common practice to see students repeatedly taking pictures of their peers in the lecture hall and posting them on social media platforms. Cyberbullying means that a student is subjected to derogatory Whatsapp messages, emails or online posts, such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs or other websites. These pictures are accompanied by untruths, just to defame the person.
Some students use both words and actions to destroy the emotions of those they perceive as different. They do this through exclusion and badmouthing. Psychological bullies attack their victims this way.
This very important part of our growth receives very little attention but has dire consequences on its victims.
Impact of bullying
Dr Kwasi Antiri writes that 'one major phenomenon that is responsible for the setback in the development of human society is… bullying.'
According to Ghana Business News, a research by Beat Bullying – a charitable organisation – indicated that of the 59 cases of child suicides reported in Ghana between 2000 and 2008, 26 were connected to bullying in schools.
Some victims of bullying grow to abhor going to school thereby becoming dropouts. Their belief in themselves grows worse. Imagine a country filled with insecure youths, bullying is one cause.
Further research by Dr Kwasi Antiri corroborated the nexus between bullying and suicides. “Some victims turn to suicide or commit homicidal acts as a result of extreme mental and social pressures. Individuals bullied in childhood may carry the emotional wounds into adulthood, leading to depression, social isolation, and the inability to react appropriately to unjust situations.”
You might have been a victim of bullying or you are being bullied right now. It could be that you were a bystander, who witnessed or are witnessing bullying.
But as a student and a neighbour you have to have empathy for your peers if you are stronger, wealthier or brilliant than them and pull them along as you climb. Inspire them to be better.
Ernest Hemingway wrote once that: There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”