Though bullying is an issue all over the world it has been said that the problem is worse in Kenya than anywhere else. The majority of students in Kenya have either experienced bullying themselves or witnessed someone else being bullied. One problem is that the line is blurred between bullying and insubordination, as many parents of bullied children simply believe that their children don’t want to go to school just because they are being defiant.
Statistics on Bullying in Kenya
In 2005 studies were conducted in schools throughout Kenya to gain statistics on bullying. These studies determined that In secondary schools for girls and boys bullying occurred all of the time. In mixed secondary schools it was found that 82% of students were bullied. School district reports proved that the number of students bullied more than tripled between 2006 and 2010. The purpose of these studies was to determine how exactly students were being bullied. Students at the schools where the studies were conducted reported that they were bullied both physically and verbally. Among students cyberbullying was found to occur the least.
The results of the 2005 studies showed that 24.3% of students that had been victims of bullying had their personal possessions forcefully taken away from them. Meanwhile 21.8% of students questioned said they were forced to send something to their bully and 14.5% of students had no choice but to give the bully their money. 13.1% reported having been physically slapped and 10.9% said they were physically beat up.
When it came to verbal bullying 42% of students reported having been called a rude name while 27.4% were threatened and 26.3% were mocked by their bully, 25.3% of them were insulted by one.
In 2007 the African Mental Health Foundation published a report detailing research that was conducted in secondary schools throughout Kenya. The results were that 64% of the students had been the victims of threats or blackmail while 63% had been physically beaten and 82% were the victims of theft at the hand of a bully.
An article published in 2007 for the Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health included the results of a study of secondary school students in Nairobi. Of the students that were surveyed most reported that they were seldom bullied, while close to half of the students said they were frequently bullied. Only 17% of students surveyed said they were bullied very frequently.
It is not only bullying at school that is a problem in Kenya. The bullying of women in Kenya is most prevalent on the internet. Even female local political figures have been victims of it. Internet bullying and even Facebook bullying is as much of an issue in Kenya as it is anywhere else. In fact, Kenyan politician Rachael Shebesh has, through her social media sites, received comments from users that include sexual innuendos. She has also been attacked verbally for being a feminist who isn’t fit to lead others. As a result, Shebesh now avoids using social media.
In February of 2016 Facebook hosted a Women’s Safety Global Roundtable in order to ultimately increase online safety for women who have been bullied in Kenya and beyond. The event was held in Nairobi and other similar events are scheduled to take place in the United States, Ireland, India and the Middle East. During the Nairobi event, the Head of Public Policy Africa for Facebook stated that the social media site plays a key role in connecting women with the platform and ensuring it is safe to use.
The Kenya ICT Action Network is a platform in Kenya in which both businesses and individuals are involved in its regulation and policy to combat bullying and cyber bullying that is affecting the women of Kenya. However, for as much of a problem as cyberbullying is, Kenya does not possess the legislation to handle the problem legally. This is due, in part, to the fact that virtually every other country in the world has stronger cyber security than Kenya does. As of 2014 the laws in Kenya have no effective way to prosecute anyone that is guilty of hate speech online as well as cyberbullying. To combat this, what is known as the Computer Related Offensives Bill was proposed by the Kenya Internet Governance Forum Steering Committee.
Stories of Bullying In Kenya
At times, students in Kenya have been sexually victimized by bullies. For example, a student at a girl’s secondary boarding school faced sexual harassment at the hands of three of her lesbian classmates. The incident took place on the victim’s first day at that school. She was so traumatized by it that the very next day she chose to run away from the school. After being caught trying to run away, her parents visited the school and spoke to its principal. However, upon hearing the girl’s account of the bullying, the school principal blamed it on her home life.
Another woman whose sister attended the same boarding school said her sibling was sexually bullied by lesbian students so badly that she passed away as a result. Though the woman’s sister transferred to a different school after the bullying incident she slipped into a depression as a result. She later died from the side effects of anti-depression medication she was taking.
It is also not unusual for high school freshman to be bullied by the seniors in their school. Many of them are bullied into polishing the shoes and doing the laundry of the senior class. Others are forced to purchase candy from the school’s canteen, using their own money, and give the candy to the seniors.
A Lack of Bullying Laws
Despite the fact that bullying is a huge problem in schools throughout Kenya there are no laws governing it. However, Kenya does have laws against teachers harassing and bullying students.