Hey awesome people!
I landed home about a month ago. Yaay, I have unlimited access to good food, water and oxygen.
I decided to check out my dad’s collection of newspapers for all the awesome pull outs I had missed. I came across this enlightening article by Sitawa Wafula highlighting how imperative it is to consider the mental well-being of high school going kids.
It was about time.
Succeeding in today’s high school setting does not entail academics per se. it is far more complex than that.
Think of a child who lives in a remote part of Kieni, so remote that Google maps cannot locate her. Her family actually receives Sunday newspapers on Tuesday. Teenage caught up with her running around in C.D.F sandals with her little brothers and cousins in her uncle’s wheelbarrow, using a pit latrine, wearing ill-fitting ugly clothes and shoes that only her mother would look at twice without grimacing and speaking a version of English so deeply marred by her mother tongue that listening to it stings . Her teachers at Karibaribi Primary School taught her to study hard so she could become a neurosurgeon and she did. She studied science out in the moonlight and did her assignments using the glimmer of dying embers of the fire that prepared her hard to find dinner. Despite the odds, she leans on her loving mother’s support, the positive environment her little relatives gives her and develops a razor sharp mind. She sweeps all the trophies in humanities and science contests and whizzes through every math exam like an F-22 fighter through the clouds. When K.C.P.E comes, she rides through it and emerges victorious. Renowned high schools literally scramble for her talent and she is admitted to a prestigious county girls’ high school.
She shows up glowing, armed with the desire to score grade A in her final exam and go straight to campus, reference books (the ones they made us read during the first days of form one : ( ) and two hundred bob for pocket money.
The issue though, is that her classmates came armed with profile and song books, fluent English and Sheng’, comprehensive knowledge of the most recent awesome movies and series; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat accounts, Rock music, poetry and calligraphy skills and others. Culture shock is just an understatement for this poor child whose classmates call ‘mshamba’ . They are shocked at her general demeanor; her English elicits peals of loud haranguing laughter and the looks of ‘which cave on the planet did you come from’. Her teachers, in a bid to engage the girls refer to and use illustrations from various movies and teen books and leave her behind. Her social skills are wanting: how on Earth do you tell girls discussing who Calvin Harris will date next and are regaling each other with intriguing experiences with their boyfriends, that your hobbies at home include riding your dad’s big bike (hoping that ‘big’ makes the story awesome), burying sweet potatoes in hot ash and singing in the church choir? She knew better. So she sat and listened; slowly withdrawing into a cocoon of fear and inadequacy.
What of the form fours? They ruthlessly harass her; steal her books, toiletries and uniform; swapping her new blouses with tattered ones with spinach-like collars. Having been brought up in strict Catholic doctrines, she does not fathom the reason for this hostility. She cries out to God, but He only seems to listen to the cool kids shaking their heads and playing air guitars during the Rick Dees weekly top forty show. As they eat relatively nice food and milk, plus snacks from the canteen, she gets the water laced with tea and githeri flooded with river water. She fights back the sadness that crawls as she relies on centrifugal force to get the grains out of the ‘soup’ as her pocket money is too little to afford snacks. Her thoughts fly like missiles trying to find a solution to her issues and she barely concentrates. Her grades take a nosedive; she flunks physics, math, and now her love, biology. Her teachers compare her K.C.P.E and current class position and push her to work harder. During functions or ‘funkies’ as we called them, the appearance of boys makes her cringe and when one approaches her for a chat, she desperately wants to sublime. The boys try to make her comfortable as they are drawn to her calm personality and classic beauty of her face, but her mandible quivers uncontrollably. She hugs herself and saunters away, embarrassed.
Now she is turning sweet sixteen, but all she can taste is the bitterness of her low self esteem. She compares herself with her glamorous schoolmates from well-off backgrounds and believes that she is not worth anything good. She looks into the bathroom mirror, stares and sighs. Her kinky hair has defied its band and risen up like a crown on her head. Stress has taken a toll on her body, giving her eye bags, a permanent sad face and a sleepy ocean of tears in her red eyes. All around her girls laughed, made friends, attended music and drama festivals while she got sadder and sadder. Her now exhausted mind begins to convince her that no one cares and she neglects her appearance and is labeled the sad muppet and isolated. She puts up a wall to keep others away that is easily brought down by the persistent chides of her schoolmates and unhealthy environment. In the frenzy of teenage excitement, relationships, friendships and competition, she is quickly forgotten. Not even her loving family sees it coming. Like the morning mist, she fades away to clear the path to opportunity for her exposed schoolmates. Never has she experienced such pain and while everyone is sleeping, she peers into the darkness as if looking for death.
Bullying is a catastrophe; it’s like a forest fire. It leaves so many damaged people in its wake. It may be psychological, especially in girls’ schools, emotional, physical or sexual.
High school life dynamics have ceased to rotate around academics; in a country where A students are constantly chided and said to be ‘working for the C students’ and endure the elements trying to find the elusive break. Getting that A in math or chemistry is nothing to the sociopaths lurking in the dorm bathrooms and nooks waiting like predators. They will beat, demean and crush even further the academic giants as their grades are wanting too.
High school kids need assistance from professionals that are well versed with the challenges modern day students face. The cycle of abuse must be broken before it breaks more innocent kids. They need counselors that will help straighten the perpetrators and heal the victims. I wish someone told the girl from Kieni that what she felt was natural and okay. All she needed was someone to help her appreciate herself, her flaws and seek friendship from girls who would love her for who she was.
I wish someone would enlighten us on their bullying experience in a boys’ high school, as I cannot put it together.
I feel that kids need to learn to tolerate each other irrespective of the vastness of their backgrounds, tribes, physical appearance and religion. Every kid is a walking zenith of hundreds of genes, memories and experiences, good and bad ones, which no one knows.
We must remember that everyone is okay just the way they are, and have a right to live and be happy.
Background images: Emo wallpaper and sad wallpaper apps available on Google Playstore.