‘Monolization’ (bullying in Kenyan slang) of students who have just joined the first year in high school by the senior students has been very common in Kenya’s secondary education system. The bullying is often severe and widespread and though illegal, it is somehow considered a rite of passage. Thus poor form one students were forced to contend with the ‘monolization’ as they counted down the year before they joined the next class and got the authority to inflict the same agony on their juniors.
VICTIMS STRIPPED AND CHEATED
Though bullying is reported to be widespread in Kenyan secondary schools, most cases of ‘monolization’ are not physical and mainly involve tricks and stripping victims of their belongings. Common tricks involve being commanded to do impossible things e.g., being given a five shilling coin accompanied by a long list of items to purchase for the bully from the school canteen. The deal is that you must purchase everything so that means the form one child being forced to dig in their pockets to meet the cost of all the items because five shillings can only buy cheap candy in Kenya.
Other forms of bullying involve being forced to do laundry for senior students, polishing their shoes, and giving up your food, while yet another trick is to be commanded to switch off a light bulb by simply blowing on it, the way you would do to a candle.
Boys are reported to be more victims of bullying than girls and bullying is more rampant in boys’ only schools and mixed schools.
LORETO GIRLS KIAMBU FORM ONE STUDENT SEXUALLY HARRASED
It was therefore very shocking on Tuesday when a case of a form one student in Loreto Girls High School, Kiambu, who was sexually harassed by a group of three lesbians in her first night in the school made headlines and parents are now concerned that ‘monolization’ might just have taken a different turn altogether.
“I was asleep in my bed when I felt a hand gag my mouth. I was then ordered to climb down and I obeyed in fear. It was then that the three girls started touching me all over my body and telling me how beautiful I was. One even licked my private parts,” the victim narrated amid tears in an interview with Citizen TV last night.
The following morning, distraught and afraid of the last night’s event recurring, she decided to run away from school but was unfortunately caught. Her parents were summoned to the school and despite the girl describing the uncouth ordeal she went through, the school’s principal, Mrs. Lydia Kariuki was on the defensive side and blamed the incident on “issues at the girl’s home”.
SCHOOL HEAD PLAYS DEFENSIVE
“We do not allow lesbianism in this school and for this case I can blame it on bigger issues at the girl’s home. Either she doesn’t want to be in the school or there is a bigger problem at home and her parents don’t want her here”, she said.
The remarks by the headmistress have not been taken kindly by scores of women who have taken to social media to vent their discontent at the casual manner the head teacher dismissed the poor girl’s plight.
“It would have been even better for that head teacher to say that they are investigating the matter, but surely playing defensive on national TV and blaming the situation on the victim’s family was immoral,” said Jacinta Mureithi, on Facebook.
“Am sure that this is not an isolated case but one of the few that gets reported,” I fear for my daughter who is set to join high school next year,” Mary wrote.
The story took a different turn altogether after a different lady exposed a similar incident where her sibling went through the same ordeal in 2005 apparently in the same school.
EXCLUSIVE: STUDENT DIES AFTER LESBIAN ORDEAL
One young women spoke exclusively to the Kenya Forum about the tragic story of her sister who was bullied to death.
“My heart is broken but finally am glad that justice is about to be served regarding the story on Citizen TV of the form one girl who ran away from Loreto girls in Kiambu, due to lesbian bullies. My late small sister and her classmate went through a similar ordeal in the same school in 2005 and had to be transferred to a different school. Just like in the recent case, the head mistress defended her institution and blamed it on the victims. Sadly, my sister died one and half years later after succumbing to side effects of the medication she was receiving in hospital due to a depression she developed after the sexual bullying by the lesbians. Something needs to be done,” said Lizz Muthoni*.
CRATES OF BEER IN SCHOOL BUS
Another parent, whose daughter cleared form four in the school last year, maintained that the school has always had negative issues since the current headmistress was posted there. She shared her side of the story with this Kenya Forum correspondent on condition of anonymity for fear of victimization as she is yet to collect her daughter’s leaving certificate.
“Something needs to be done Asap! This school has had issues since that woman was posted there and she is always on the defensive, she runs pubs in Kiambu and would constantly use the school bus to ferry crates of beer. Students would find beer in the bus when using the bus. It is an open secret but she has people in higher places who protect her. Parents have complained about her for years but instead she got promoted so we just gave up! Said Yvonne*.
CASES OF LESBIANISM IN BOARDING SCHOOLS ARE COMMON
Cases of lesbianism in girls’ schools in Kenya have been rampant over the years, but the perpetrators have always been operating and recruiting willing members in secret thus the school management is hardly to be in the know not unless culprits are caught in the act, whereas they are suspended or expelled from the school and the circle goes on.
In June last year, six secondary school girls from Ruchu Girls High School in Murang’a County were suspended on claims of sharing beds and showing lesbian behaviour.
In 2012, some eight form two girls from Pangani Girls in Nairobi were sent home for being lesbian and in the same year, another school in Mombasa also sent home 12 students for supposed lesbianism. Allegedly, a case of sodomy in a boarding school in Makueni County has forced a parent to transfer her son to a different school, just two weeks after the boy had been admitted in form one.
VICTIMS OF BULLYING SUFFER
Victims of bullying consider school unsafe, risk suffering depression, and suffer low-esteem tendencies that progress into adulthood thus the sad reality that bullying/monolization in our schools has turned sexual is really distressing.
Boarding schools are considered the most ideal environments for learning by most parents as education tends to take on a broad meaning compared to day schools. This explains why many parents prefer to enroll their kids in boarding schools as the system helps them become well rounded individuals.
“Boarding school is an education in and of itself.” So goes the phrase but looking at the cases of sexual harassment that are being reported in our schools, something needs to be done before things get out of hand and everyone needs to play their role; teachers, parents and the society at large.
*NB: names have been changed to protect the privacy of the victims and their family.