Sunday, April 26, 2009

When A Child Is Bullied To Suicide

We have watched news about a child that was bullied in school by his or her mates and he or she committed suicide. Their deaths should not be placed solely on the school and their mates. I was bullied but I am alive and a very happy man. Like our shadows never leave us; our past would never leave us. However, our shadows do not determine our present and future. So too should our past not determine our present and future. I know people who were bullied in school but who did not take their lives because of the support structure they had at home. Children take away their lives when there is lack of that support structure both in and out of the home. Listen to me well; at home. Yes, at home. The home should be the last shoulder pad on which the bullied child should cry; the last pair of ears to listen to his or her worries. Sadly, they lack that support!
I was bullied even by girls, because I was too skinny and was a product of the city. The village kids believed that they were tough, and so taunted and teased me in groups. Some will seize my things: my soccer balls, my slate and my chalk. But every day I came home, I had a grandfather who will tell me you are from the king’s family and they are not. “Woh tchi moh nkwoh. Oh ke kah yehmu a ki woh ne neneh amek” (you are the son of a lion so don’t allow anyone to bully you”. He will reiterate in Kenyang. He took me to every meeting (where I learnt many proverbs) that he went too. I mean quarter head meetings and village meetings. Because they spoke mostly in proverbs even when I was there, I did not understand them.
One day I came back home beaten by a girl. He laughed and said that is really a disgrace for this family. He gave me some gifts telling me that I was great. The next day a guy seized my soccer ball and another one took my chalk. When I came home, I told my grandfather. He was not quick at anger, but my grand mother was. She left and went to see the headmaster who was the brother. The headmaster told her that they will not do anything. "He (I) should defend himself" he argued. My grandmother began pulling my ears and scolding me: “did you hear? You have not been going to the farm that is why you are too weak. Thenceforth, you will be going to the farm to be strong too to resist all these bullies.
My grandfather said: “son, now you are a man, when they come in group you cannot fight a group. Select the ringleader and give him the beatings of his life. He spat on my hand and told me to go”. The night seems to be long because I could not wait to face those bullies. School was over and lo and behold a group of kids gathered telling me that my grand father was a wizard. He was walking with a stick. I was just quiet as we walked back home. A girl came and pulled me by my shirt but I did not answer back. In my mind I was waiting for the ringleader. I warned the girl to leave me alone or she will receive the greatest beatings of her life. “Did your grandfather initiate you in his witchcraft that you have become strong overnight”? She mocked! I laughed and told her that she will soon learn the hard way. She kept pulling me front and back. I charged as if to hit her and the bully stepped in. It was one in a life time opportunity. I will either do this and gain my peace or do not and remain their eternal victim. I went for the kill and fell on him like a wasp; stung him with blows all over that he went unconscious. The whole group scattered and ran into the bushes as I became the hero.
The next day we were going to school and they had told stronger boys about what I did to the other guy. But I quickly formed an alliance with another bully with whom we went out for break and studied together. Everyday my grandfather asked me if anyone had bullied me and if I ran away or I withstood them. He told me the more you run the more they make fun of you and bully you.
In the US it is different. When kids are bullied they usually do not tell their teachers not to talk of their absentee parents. However, I am able to see a child who is bullied, and know that I have to warn the other kids from doing it. I bring stories of kids who killed people because they were bullied. By the end of the class everyone takes their position.
But the absence of parents; yes the absence of parents at home is a big lacuna in the self esteem of the kids. When something happens like this, people look at the school and the students. If you have supportive parents who can come to school and report the matter that situation will never occur. Ask parents how many times they have come to see their teachers or administrators that their child is being bullied. They don’t even have time to come to parents’ teachers meeting to know their teachers how will they call. They are out working two jobs. The kids are left to deal with the taunting of their mates by themselves. When a child kills himself or herself it is because the love for themselves supersedes the love for the family. But if there was great chemistry in the house it will never happen. When a child spends more time with the computer than with the parents or finds solace with an avatar or invisible lover on the internet than with a real person reveals a lack of home support thereof.
There is no school that will not do anything when a child is being bullied. The students refuse to tell their teachers for fear they are regarded a sissy, and the parents too are frequently out of home to sit and listen to the kids. There is too much of absentee parenting in the US that the kids seem to raise themselves. We only see the parents come up when some calamity befalls their child because they want attention or money.
When you have supporting parents you may not like to go to school but you will enjoy coming home to enjoy the family’s company. You will tell your parents of what is going on or they will realize you do not look the way you used too and convince you to share your worries with them. America must rebuild family support that has been eroded with the Rat-Race mentality.
Snake and the Ladder Game
I remember two instances in our family as I was growing up. My father was an electrician with PowerCam. One day he ran late and so the time for supper was passing. Our mother forced us to eat and go to bed because our dad was not forth coming but none of us ate. Instead we all dosed on the chairs until he came back home. Another day he was running late and we spent the whole evening crying for him. No one ate; though we were hungry but the family bond and the absence of one took away our appetite. We always ate together, played games like Lido and Snake and Ladder and competed to see who will spell correctly the longest word in the dictionary. Those times we spent together were worth more than me playing soccer or my sisters playing Mini-Mini Ehhh Mini-Mini. When we thought of Hide & Seek that we played with our parents, going outside to play was a painful exercise. Sometimes our parents forced us to play outside with other kids because we were renting two bedrooms. Perhaps that was the time they took to play Mami and Papa that let to my younger sister. No child with such a support system will kill himself. People kill themselves when they can neither find a sympathetic ear nor encouraging mouth without or within the home.

Until then, I deeply regret the loss of these young people. May their souls rest in peace!

Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk.

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