Bullying is one of those things that seem to define the secondary school experience in Nigeria. If you went to a Nigerian secondary school, chances are high you’ve been bullied, bullied someone or witnessed someone being bullied.
We spoke to seven Nigerians about their experiences being bullied in secondary school.
When I was younger, I was fat. Like not just chubby, I was fat in the sense that if I step into a room all my classmates or church friends or even adults would stare. I don’t think I went a day without being reminded I was fat. It was awful. Adults oh, children oh. Same thing. But the worst was in school. I would be on my own and people would push me to the ground and they’ll laugh. I would be like what did I ever do to you? And the worst part was that even the teachers seemed to all just dislike me so I found it hard to ever report to them. I think the worst was this thing that happened in JS3. I went to the toilet. My school had a row of toilets that was kind of disconnected but still close to the block of classrooms so sometimes you could smell if someone was using it. I went to use it. I had barely entered when a group descended on me. They said I was the reason the toilets were smelling. More people joined the group and they were laughing at me. I peed on myself. This was around 1 pm and my school closed by 3:15 pm. I had to wear those shorts till school closed. That thing did something to my mind. I don’t think I can ever truly get over it.
I was bullied the first day I gained admission to secondary school. I was excited to gain admission at a young age. My mom packed me a big lunch box, my uniform was like a maternity gown and I was wearing this heavy ‘koko’ shoe. When I got to school, the assembly was in session so I just walked in and sat down. All of a sudden, a couple of seniors beside me started laughing and pointing. One of them said, “see this ugly girl, what is she wearing?” It got to the point that everyone caught on and all the seniors started laughing at me. It was horrible because it continued for days. I stopped taking food to school after the first week.
There are countless experiences like this too. I was called all sorts of names for no reason and it was horrible. One day, I went to school with a hoodie and the cap was on, to cover my bad haircut. In the middle of a joint class, someone yanked the hoodie off. Everyone started laughing and they hit my head. I was in tears but no one cared. Even the teacher burst into laughter. My head was red from the hitting and I felt so awful.
I was in a boarding school in Calabar. I had the senior students and my peers refer to me as a “faggot”. They said I walked and talked like a girl and some senior boys said they would soon “beat it out of me”. I used to be asked to walk from one end of the hostel to the other while they watched and if I didn’t “walk like a man”, I would get a hard slap on each side of my face. I got slapped several times every afternoon. Sometimes so bad that I would cry bitterly afterwards. I started hiding out in the classroom buildings after school hours, afraid to go to the hostels for afternoon siesta because I knew one of them would come and find me for their “exercise”. When siesta would be over and everyone came back out for afternoon prep, I would sneak back into the hostel and change my clothes and then head back out. This was a regular occurrence for months. I finally got beat up badly one day by a senior student that one side of my butt swelled up like a pumpkin. A teacher saw it and reported the case. After that, my parents moved me to a different boarding school.
I always wanted to go to the boarding house because it meant being away from my parents. My first week in secondary school, the bullying started, not from seniors but my mates. They would keep me out of “secret meetings” because I had a “big mouth”. I had never really hung out with girls before so this was a glaring experience, trying to see what I did wrong etc. Then the worst thing happened, two of the popular babes in my set asked me to escort them to class on a Saturday. I obliged because I thought I was making progress. We got there and met two popular boys who were also in our set and who they were crushing on. These girls set me up to be raped and assaulted. They pushed me into the classroom with the boys, who got a hold of me and started fondling me, everywhere. I almost ran mad, I was screaming for them to help me but they ignored me and started walking back to the hostel. The boys stopped because they didn’t understand what was happening. The girls told them that I wanted it.
I changed schools in SS1 so I had to make new friends all over again. There was this girl, Kamila, that didn’t like me and went as far as telling me I should know my place and not step on her toes. She would see me passing and whisper something to her group of friends and they would immediately burst out laughing and pointing at me. That hurt.
One of the few friends I made was Amina, one day she lost the CDs that she borrowed from me and I got mad and stopped talking to her because she didn’t even bother to apologize. Next thing she did was tell everyone in our class that I was a prostitute and that I had AIDS. This girl went round all the classes (science, arts and commercial) to write on the boards that I was a prostitute lol. I would pass and someone would not so quietly say “ashawo” and everyone would start giggling. Or I would be talking to someone and Amina would come with “eww stop talking to her, she has AIDS” or “don’t touch her if you don’t want to catch AIDS.” That went on for over a year. Amina joined forces with Kamila to make my life miserable.
I went to a Christian boarding school. I grew up super pampered, even more than my siblings so adjusting was hard for me and I think it made people hate me. I got bullied for everything. At a point, I was getting punished every Friday for fun. Seniors hated me so much, they got my mates to bully me too. They’d go as far as telling their guy friends to not associate with me. I was a super outcast with like only five friends in the whole school.
One time, a senior lined the popular girls from my hostel up and they all took turns insulting me unprovoked. I had an older sister and I was always afraid to tell her things because I was constantly getting threatened with beatings.
Nobody ever talks about what bullying does to you. I went from quiet and peaceful to angry and extremely violent. I didn’t know how to handle confrontation or anything I didn’t like without violence.
When I was in year 7, I had these group of friends and there was this boy in Year 8 who was very popular and cute and he liked me. I didn’t know that one of the girls in this friend group had a crush on him and was pained that we were ‘together’. They were all Hausa so they would speak their language and I wouldn’t know they were insulting me the whole time I was with them. There was a day when another Hausa friend I had was listeneing in on their conversation and told me that they hand plans to ‘destroy’ me. So what these girls did is that they went to the bathroom which had maybe like 6/7 stalls. These girls wrote all over the stalls and walls of this bathroom that year 7-9s were using. They wrote stuff like ‘Florence* is a bitch’, “Florence* is a slut” and other berating things with a permanent marker. So obviously everybody saw it and they kept talking about it. A teacher saw it too and called me to talk to the headmistress. I told her that I knew who did it. The minute I called the main girl’s name, the woman told me she couldn’t do anything about it. I later found out that her dad was giving the school money for a new multipurpose hall. Anyways the woman made me go to the science lab to get ethanol to clean my own name from the bathroom walls. She said that since I didn’t have proof and it was my name, I’d have to clear it up. Ended up leaving the school after year 9 and they didn’t even bother changing the stall doors. So people who I didn’t even know knew that I was a slut and a bitch.