In Summary

  • Details of horrifying acts meted out on junior students by prefects and older students rarely emerge unless the assault leads to life-threatening injuries or even death.
  • That such atrocities were perpetrated to vulnerable students in the name of induction within the walls of Alliance High School, a traditionally revered academics, sports and discipline giant, left Kenyans baffled.
  • It takes time to change the culture of a school, but it is unfortunate that to date some schools have not consented to these guidelines,” says Indimuli. He argues that prefects handpicked by the management are naturally an extension of the administration, where mistrust with their fellow students inhibits sharing of vital information.

Recollections of his first year in high school elicit horror and indignation. “I was the recipient of the most unimaginable forms of malevolence. A certain Form Three boy hated me so much. I was bathing one evening after preps when he passed  electric wires in the water. I nearly died,” says Boniface Kioko.

“He kept his metal box on my bed, forcing me to sleep on the floor with only a bed sheet for a whole term.  I even washed his underwear, but I could do nothing because our then dorm captain was his friend,” he adds

Kioko, who says he later developed a heart condition, says that incidents of being burnt with hot tea and food were common in their school.

He narrates the story in the wake of the recent damning report about bullying of Form One students by their seniors at Alliance High School that left the nation incensed.

That such atrocities were perpetrated to vulnerable students in the name of induction within the walls of Alliance High School, a traditionally revered academics, sports and discipline giant, left Kenyans baffled.

Whereas it is the rot at Alliance that was uncovered, this could only be a reflection of what goes down behind the gates of most boarding secondary schools across the country.

In what is usually a highly-guarded secret, dreadful details of what transpires after dusk sets in rarely emerge, unless the assault leads to life-threatening injuries, as in the case of Alliance, or death.

 In most instances, schools conceal the truth from the public and use all possible avenues to distort any useful information that may assist in establishing the real cause of injuries or death.

DARK PHASES

Thus the question begs, as a parent, just how safe is your child in school?

Do you for example interrogate what measures the administration has put in place to ensure your child’s safety? And how often do you engage the school to know the progress of your child?

National and county schools are the envy of most students. But beneath their high level of discipline and outstanding performances in national exams and other exploits sometimes lies rot of unspeakable enormity.

Patrick Kimani attended two top boys’ schools in Murang’a County and he recalls with a frown the events of what he describes as a dark phase of his life.

“Harassment of students in lower classes by senior students was the order of the day in our school, from being forced to clean for them to having our property taken by force. We were always at their mercy,” he says.

“It is a cycle that is passed on to subsequent generations. I remember some big boys who never used to buy their own toiletries. I know of some who sodomised others,” he adds.

Kimani says he witnessed first-hand the recruitment of junior students to a ‘cult’. “The seniors were in charge of the process, and resistance was met with ruthlessness. You dreaded being in the dormitory. Either your beddings were soiled, someone hid your shoes or stole your items. I could not withstand this height of physical and psychological torture. I feigned illness to be allowed to go home after which I demanded for a transfer to a different school.”

Kimani says that bullying happens under the prefects’ noses, and in most cases, the prefects themselves mastermind evils against vulnerable students. “It is hard to tell a good prefect from a bad one,” he says. Monica Wanjeri from Nyeri County recounts how her son was at the brink of psychosis, when she discovered oddities in him. “My son was in Form Two when he came home for the midterm break. He started exhibiting signs of mental illness. I was really upset because I was also struggling to raise his school fees,” she says.

According to Wanjeri, her son was hell-bent on concealing his state from her. It was only after persisting that he admitted to being sexually and physically assaulted by his colleagues in school.

Lydiah Ngwiri, a child counsellor and teacher at Kiambu High School  PHOTO |  ERIC WAINAINA

Lydiah Ngwiri, a child counsellor and teacher at Kiambu High School PHOTO | ERIC WAINAINA

HEAD INJURIES

At first, Wanjeri feared that her son had sustained internal head injuries, which would explain the sudden fits of derangement. But after some tests the doctor assured her that her son was only depressed. “He prescribed antibiotics to him. We also put him under counselling therapy to which he responded well. But he had to stay at home for nearly a whole term to recover. I had to look for an alternative school for him,” says the parent.

Lydiah Ngwiri, a child counsellor and teacher at Kiambu High School, says that forms of bullying range from mild to extreme molestation.

According to Ngwiri, however, even mild incidents such as name calling affect students psychologically due to their mental fragility.

“Theft of items, and being made to drink soapy water are the common cases of harassment among boys. Girls are usually petty and sprinkle water on their fellows’ beds. In far lethal cases, students may introduce or attempt to introduce their juniors to homosexuality.”

Esther Aketch, who went to a school in Siaya between 2006 and 2009, says that while she was never subjected to bodily harm, she was coerced to run petty errands like brushing shoes, folding clothes for a group of notorious girls in their  school, and even carrying toilet paper for them as they visited the washroom.

“I used to take breakfast to bed to a certain Form Three girl. I would even queue for meals for her. She would say  that as a senior student, she did not have the time to waste while queuing. I would first collect her meal, then proceed for mine. Sometimes I would go hungry after missing food. She said that this was the price for protecting me against bullying from other students.”

Aketch says that some of her colleagues in Form One were physically abused, and threatened to be sexually abused. And even as these acts were committed, no one would dare speak up. “For fear of being harmed, I had no choice but to obey and keep mum. I did so for an entire term,” she narrates.

Eliud Macharia, a parent, says that he fails to comprehend how such savagery could happen to Alliance students without the school’s knowledge.

 “It beats me, was it a conspiracy among the school staff under whose care the students are? If this was a case of complicity, which nothing so far suggests it was not, it feeds the assumption that this “induction” is a practice that was approved, directly or indirectly, by the school administration.,” he says.

TRANQUILITY IN DAY SCHOOLS

While boarding schools may be the epicentre of bullying, day schools enjoy a considerable level of tranquil.

Eric Ogugu, a Mathematics and Physics teacher at Elburgon PCEA Secondary School in Nakuru County, says that such cases are rare in all the day schools he has taught.

“Day scholars are mostly youth from the same locale, and know each other’s homes and families. The students meet and participate in many activities outside the school setting. So, harassment rarely occurs among them,” he says.

Whereas caning may not be the magic wand to achieve discipline among leaners, many analysts maintain that with the dung hit the fan with the abolishment of corporal punishment in schools.

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