Overcoming Bullying and Embracing Hope

By John Kalula

They believed that my status as a refugee and stateless person made my future bleak and that I would never amount to anything. Their words hurt me deeply, but I refused to let them defeat me.

I completed my primary education at a free school in the Dzaleka refugee camp, but life was not easy for me there. One gloomy Monday morning, I found myself in the school library seeking solace among the shelves of books. As I sat at a small table with a biology book, I delved into the intricate dance of reproduction, where nature’s miracles and mysteries intertwined, shaping existence’s core essence. A sizable group of my classmates, accompanied by the notorious bully, Jake, entered the library. Their appearances ranged from well-dressed to disheveled, and as they approached, a sense of unease gripped me. I instinctively tried to blend into the surroundings, dreading any potential encounter. Their laughter and whispers echoed through the quiet space, catching the attention of other students. I could feel a sense of dread creeping up within me, as if an invisible storm was brewing. Jake, notorious for his brutal beatings that leave victims bloody and traumatized, instilling fear and terror among those who encounter him, made a beeline towards me, accompanied by his loyal followers. As they surrounded me, I could hear the snickers. The atmosphere turned tense, as if time itself had slowed down, and I became acutely aware of the gazes fixated upon me. Jake’s piercing stare met mine, filled with malice and a twisted satisfaction in his ability to dominate.

He started hurling insults, attacking me with hurtful words, like sharp arrows, relentlessly aimed directly at the tender core of my insecurities, having the power to wound and scar. These verbal daggers pierced deep, echoing through the chambers of my fragile self-esteem, leaving behind trails of anguish and self-doubt. Each syllable cut through my defenses and undermined any semblance of confidence I had mustered. The weight of his words became unbearable, as tears welled up in my eyes, threatening to spill over.

A flick of empathy appeared in the eyes of one of Jake’s followers, Sarah. Her expression wavered, betraying a hint of guilt and discomfort. But she remained silent, unwilling to challenge the authority Jake held over their social circle.

Mr. Kabongo, with genuine concern etched on his face, approached me and offered me one word that I will never forget. The word was “resilience.”

His compassion provided a momentary respite, a glimmer of hope that I desperately clung to amidst the wreckage of my self-esteem.

Mr. Kabongo was right. Practicing resilience in that moment shaped me into a compassionate advocate against bullying, determined to create a safer environment for others who have experienced similar hardships.

Some weeks later, after the exams, I stood in the bustling hallway of my school, surrounded by the excited chatter of students rushing to their next classes. As I gathered my books, lost in my own thoughts, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. Startled, I turned around to find the head teacher, Mrs. Anderson, standing there with a warm smile on her face. Her appearance, meticulous attire, ageless beauty, elegant makeup, styled hair, and commanding height gracefully captured the attention of all her students.

“May I have a moment with you?” she asked, her voice filled with a mix of anticipation and sincerity. Without hesitation I nodded, feeling a spark of curiosity ignite within me. Together, we stepped into a quieter corner of the hallway away from the commotion.

After a brief pause, Mrs. Anderson looked into my eyes, her gaze filled with unwavering belief. She began to speak, her words carrying a weight that resonated deeply within me. “You know, I’ve been closely observing your journey here at our school,” she said. “Your dedication, your passion for learning and your unwavering determination have not gone unnoticed.” Mrs. Anderson continued, her voice brimming with a mix of excitement and pride. “I firmly believe that you possess immense potential and I want to support you in every way I can. So I’ve decided to personally take care of your secondary education expenses.”

Her words struck me like a bolt of lightning electrifying my senses. I stood there frozen in disbelief as waves of gratitude and astonishment washed over me. At that moment time seemed to stand still. I struggled to find words but my heart overflowed with overwhelming joy.

A smile spread across my face, radiant and uncontainable as I finally found my voice. “Thank you,” I managed to whisper, my voice trembling with gratitude. Mrs. Anderson had not only changed the trajectory of my education but had also instilled in me the belief that my dreams were within reach.

I walked away from that encounter with a newfound determination taking root in my heart. I vowed to work harder to seize every opportunity and to honor the faith Mrs. Anderson had placed in me. Her gesture of support was more than an offer of financial assistance; it was a catalyst for my growth, a beacon of hope lighting the path to a brighter future.

My family did not share my excitement. They did not want me to leave the refugee camp and attend school in the city. I was in the living room of our family home, the very place where countless memories had been made, both joyful and tumultuous. The clock on the wall seemed to tick louder than ever, adding an ominous soundtrack to the impending storm that was about to unfold.

As the fading sunlight cast long shadows across the room, my father’s stern expression conveyed a mix of anger, disappointment and finally, his voice laced with bitterness echoed through the silence, each word cutting through my heart like a sharp knife. “You are no longer a part of this family. Leave and never come back.“ Those words reverberated in my ears, seeping deep into my soul, leaving me feeling utterly lost and abandoned.

In that very moment my body went numb, a wave of disbelief crashing over me. It felt as if time had come to a standstill, and the weight of his disownment bore down on my shoulders, threatening to suffocate me. Emotions swirled inside me like a tempestuous whirlwind of betrayal, sadness and a profound sense of rejection. I couldn’t help but draw a connection to Jake, the bully from my past, who made me feel the same way—small, powerless, and targeted. It dawned on me that my father’s behavior might indeed be a form of bullying, a cruel manipulation of power. The parallels between the two situations struck me. I mustered the strength to hold back tears, refusing to give my father the satisfaction of witnessing my vulnerability. With a heavy heart, I collected the shattered fragments of my self-esteem and dignity. The once familiar walls of our home now seemed cold and hostile, no longer offering solace or protection.





12 July, 2023