Don’t let that bully ruin your child’s life

By Vision Reporter

Added 19th February 2013 07:18 PM

Every time the new term starts, some children are excited about joining a new class, amking new friends and getting new teachers. But, amid this excitement, there is a looming danger - bullying. Harriet Birungi explores ways to deal with it.

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Every time the new term starts, some children are excited about joining a new class, amking new friends and getting new teachers. But, amid this excitement, there is a looming danger - bullying. Harriet Birungi explores ways to deal with it.

Every time the new term starts, some children are excited about joining a new class, amking new friends and getting new teachers. But, amid this excitement, there is a looming danger - bullying. Harriet Birungi explores ways to deal with it.

Bullying is the use of force to abuse, control, intimidate and cause fear to others. It can take the form of verbal harassment or physical assault directed towards victims on various grounds like body size, gender, religion, looks or abilities.

Lydia Aparo remembers how she had to come to the aid of her nephew, Junior. Junior was five years old, brilliant, quiet and in nursery school. He was small in size, short and defenseless. Anybody could easily pick on him.

“I used to drop and pick him up from school. One time I went to pick him, but he was not happy. He told me that a big boy had beaten him. I asked him if this boy  had beaten him on other occasions and he replied in the affirmative. I also asked for this boy’s name, which he gave me. When I went to his class teacher and reported the matter, she said it must be just something between children and that I should just let it go. But I knew better. I had been bullied before and insisted on seeing this boy. The boy was called from class and sure enough, with his height, body mass and mischievous look, he came off as a bully.

“I introduced myself as Junior’s mother and assured him that I was not happy with what was going on. I told him I would do to him  exactly what he was doing to my son should he ever do it again. “The threat must have worked because he really looked intimidated. By the time I left, everybody knew that Junior’s mom did not want anybody bullying him. It was nice seeing Junior smile again every time I went to pick him,” says Aparo.

Bullying is at two levels, says Jamesa Wagwau, a trained counsellor. But it is important to understand what triggers the bullying. Bullying can be outright physical violence or subtle. Either way, it the underlying desire is to intimidate, control and instil fear. Children largely learn behaviour from the environment and how they relate with other children is how people at home, and particularly parents, relate with them.

“Children whose parents are overdomineering or instil fear are likely to adopt this as their way of relating with others. They do not know any other way of doing it apart from what they have learnt from parents,” explains Wagwau. He says a child’s brain is like a blank piece of paper by the roadside, every passerby leaves a mark on it. On the other hand, school is a melting pot that brings people from diverse homes; broken, violent homes or where violence is perpetuated on them; beating them all the time for no apparent reason.

For a child who knows no other way, there is nothing wrong with hitting another child at any opportunity.  Bullies believe it is
acceptable and proper to beat anyone younger, as a way of showing who is stronger and  older, since they were bullied when they were younger. That means if you are in S2,  it is okay to show S1 students that you are older by actions. It is a vicious cycle in schools. Join S1, be bullied and wait until you are in S2 to do the same, says the counsellor.

Wagwau says bullying is caused by low self-esteem and insecurity. When one feels like a failure, they derive satisfaction from knowing that others fear them. It boosts their ego and sense of self, which is on shaky ground; so that they do not feel that they are doing badly, thus giving them psychological equilibrium.

Bullying can be physical like pouring water in your bed, calling you names or beating you. However, subtle ways have been developed to beat the rules. They include being given wrong direction around the school. For instance, one may be given directions to the toilet if they asked for where the stores are. Being in a new environment, it will leave them intimidated.

It can also take the form of students preventing you from entering a given room, dispersing when you  approach or laughing at you. Bullies come from dysfunctional families — separated parents, parents who are together but constantly fight, and absentee fathers who never had time to relate with them.

According to a publication by Cyberbullying Research Centre, 2011, bullies come from all walks of life, all ages, all genders, all races and all cultures. “Bullies are very often people who have been  bullied or abused themselves. Sometimes they are experiencing life situations they cannot cope with, that leave them feeling helpless and out of control. Many times, a bully does not feel that they can find any other means of fitting in or carving out their own niche in life so they turn to being powerful in a way that they feel brings them respect. They feel that being feared is the way to gain respect and surround themselves with friends and people who look up to them.

Lynne Amanya recalls her time as a bully. “I was a young girl, coming from a home where I lived with my aunt. She was the true definition of iron lady. She treated me with a hand of steel. She beat me at every opportunity and did not care whether I was guilty or not. I think I got a beating every morning or before I went to bed. I had no one to share the pain with. Luckily for me, I was the class prefect and I had all my classmates to revenge on. Everyday brought a new opportunity to inflict my pain on someone. I thought if they did not love, listen and consider me a worthy human being at home, then I had my classmates to torture.

One time I beat a student until they were taken to hospital. I did not know any other way to get people to respect and like me. so I had to force them. In  any case, back home I would be beaten for no particular cause and adults showe d that they were in control through beating me. As an adult, I feel that people must listen to me. Even if it means forcing them, something I have tried to overcome!” shares Amanya.


Over the years, bullying seems to have taken on different shapes. The perpetrators in school know it is punishable and so have resorted to subtle ways.

For instance, Tricia, a one time bully, remembers how they would do it. “In S2, I belonged to a group of beautiful girls and we called each other sister. My sisters and I never carried things like soap, toothpaste and most of the basics. Our shopping money was spent on clothes. So we used to ask others, who were not as beautiful as we were, for the things we lacked. We told them that we would have them as friends if they provided those basics and washed our clothes on Saturday. They also had to carry our flasks to the kitchen and bring us tea, while for meals, they took a bucket in to bring us food. We nicknamed those who refused to do as we wanted. To avoid getting names, they did housework when it was our turn and never complained when we helped ourselves to their Sunday best clothes,”reminisces Tricia.

Al-Hajj Mugagga Ali Kasule, the head teacher of Lubiri SS, says bullying is a barbaric act which should be banned in schools. Whereas some schools have it as part of their culture, it should be prohibited at all costs. He adds that in schools where bullying is still done, the bullies extort money from young ones and grab other property. Kasule attributes it to poor school administrations. “Such schools admit students because they want money and do not mind about the new ones and particularly young ones; this provides fertile ground for the bullies,” he says.


Kasule says: “When they are wearing a sad expression.” But is also quick to add that often times, they open up about it and tell.  As students, they are free to speak out and get  help. For instance even when a teacher is the perpetrator of the bullying, they come out and report to the head teacher. Once told, “I follow up on the matter raised,” Kasule says.


Bring your child up to believe in themselves by believing in them. You are the first person to believe in the child, thus, no amount of bullying can bring them down. Have a good relationship with your child and have good communication skills. Keep communication channels open; do not wait to see marks on their bodies on visiting day. Share any incident that made them uncomfortable or instil fear in them.

There should be guiding and counselling services  in school or a teacher with skills who they can run to incase they are bullied. This teacher should be made known to them in the first week of school. They should be capable of building rapport with the children to make them feel at home and not hate themselves.

Teach assertive skills to a child, to speak their  mind without being rude. Team them to be assertive from the time they are young. For example, a child should be able to say: “No, I will not wash your knickers because it is not my responsibility,”
advises Wagau.


Don’t let that bully ruin your child’s life

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