Magdalene Joseph’s mother recounts the tragic incident in January 2009 at the Suweto Centre For Excellence Primary School in Jalingo, the Taraba State capital.
That morning, an inspection was happening in the classes, and when one of the teachers entered primary four, he discovered that Joseph was among the few pupils who weren’t wearing socks.
“He asked my daughter and other pupils to kneel down outside, and while he was flogging them with a cane, it accidentally struck her eye,” said the mother, Kauna Joseph.
When Joseph’s right eye was hit, she fell to the ground, and the teacher continued flogging her until he realised she had fainted. He stopped and walked away.
“I was doing house chores when they brought her to me from the school, and I had to rush her to a hospital for treatment,” she recalled.
Following their week-long stay at the hospital, Magdalene didn’t receive the necessary treatment, and the mother admitted that she couldn’t afford to transport her outside the state. So the eye was damaged, and she had to stop attending school.
“Some staff and students from the school came to sympathise with us, but I didn’t see that teacher. I’m still doubtful if I can forgive him,” admitted Mrs Joseph.
In 2013, little Joseph died after battling a fever.
Today, the mother is still healing from the pain of losing her daughter, and she continues to connect it with that tragic incident at the school.
Also, Isa Kamisu had a wonderful childhood experience in the Madachi community of Katagum Local Government Area in Nigeria’s Bauchi State.
“I was born and raised in a beautiful family, with both my parents caring for me and my siblings. The members of my community showed us love and affection without any harassment or bullying,” Kamisu said.
Kamisu’s troubles began when he enrolled in the Upper Basic Secondary School, Madachi. In that particular school, some of the teachers admitted to disliking both him and his female siblings.
“According to them, our father was an influential political figure in the community, and they assumed we were arrogant, which we were not,” Kamisu told Prime Progress.
Despite Kamisu’s submissiveness, one teacher kept scolding and bullying him.
Kamisu faced even more when he moved to the Government Secondary School, Chinade, where some senior students in the boarding section subjected him to beatings.
“They would wake me up in the middle of the night to perform tasks for them. Life was exceptionally tough. I had undergone various punishments for reasons I don’t even know why. Some of them sought my forgiveness as they approached graduation, while others did not,” Kamisu explained.
Whenever Kamisu reminisces about his days in high school, these experiences disturb him, and he feels that some teachers and students don’t treat him well. But he has moved on with life.
Just like Kamisu, globally, half of the students aged 13–15 (some 150 million) are reported to be experiencing bullying and peer-to-peer violence in and around school, according to UNICEF.
This violence and bullying is said to affect the the children’s health, well-being, and education, which led to UNESCO Member States declaring the first Thursday of November as the International Day against Violence and Bullying at School, Including Cyberbullying.
The commemoration of the day in 2023 comes with the theme “No place for fear: Ending school violence for better mental health and learning.”
The day calls on learners, parents, members of education communities, education authorities, and a range of sectors and partners, including the tech industry, to join hands in preventing all forms of violence and promoting safe learning environments where the health and well-being of children are prioritised.
What needs to be done
Zuwaira Halilu, an educationist in Maiduguri, Nigeria, said that mitigating violence and bullying against children in schools should be a collective effort of parents, teachers, communities, and even the government.
“Teachers should be good listeners and abstain from comments that would affect the mental health of pupils or students, particularly those who cannot meet some demands in the school. They should also refrain from assigning senior students to control the junior ones, especially in class with the use of cane or any instrument that may cause harm,” she told Prime Progress.
However, Halilu added that parents should endeavour to boost their ward’s self-esteem by providing their basic needs to avoid embarrassment or degradation from other students, which may affect their mental well-being.
“Students should be treated equally irrespective of their statuses,” she concluded.