Our society is not doing enough to address bullying of vulnerable young people, especially young people with disabilities. I grew up in a society where even teachers laughed at and maltreated students who suffer from learning disabilities.
There was this particular case, which even decades later, still makes me furious. Whenever I hear of children with disabilities who are bullied by adults, I instantly think of this boy in my junior high school class in Nigeria, who was constantly bullied not just by students but by teachers too.
The boy, I think his name was ‘Jamiu’, was always falling asleep during class sessions. We were told or rather, there were rumours that the boy was bitten by Tsetse fly and as a result had ‘sleeping sickness’. For years, I was terrified of flies. Obviously, the child suffered from some sort of sleeping disorder, and he constantly fell asleep in class. Teachers told us to mock him for falling asleep during class sessions. Teachers made him stand in front of the class where he was humiliated with the whole class staring at him like a freak. Since it was our first year in high school, we were between the ages of 12 and 13, but it seems the boy was much older. He was also bigger than most of us in the class. However, I rarely heard him speak. He seemed to bear his constant humiliation with stoic fortitude.
This young boy had learning disabilities and did not perform well in class. He sat at the back of the class. Looking back now, it seems that young people who had learning disabilities were always sat at the back of the class. The ‘bright’ ones were always sat at the front rows, while those who did not perform well were pushed to the back seats. The further down you are, the lower you are in the hierarchy of ‘intelligence’.
I used to feel so sorry for the child but also I was terrified to go near him for fear of ‘catching’ this sleeping disease. I felt sorry for him because he could not have been [Read more…]