Place: P.2S, Lower Side, Nakasero Primary School
Date: Late 1980
Tunes: There’s a Brown Girl in the Ring by Boney M
Mood: Confused and sad
I was bullied as a child.
For reasons I can’t explain a girl called Olivia Nansamba took one look at me on my first day of school in Kampala Kindergarten and decided I would be the object of her wrath. I don’t know what happened to Olivia at her home to make her so angry at me, but every break time she’d steal the food that my mother had so lovingly packed and she’d pour my juice in the grass. She’d force me to play with her, hitting me on the head and pinching me if I attempted to resist. If I played with anyone else I’d get spat on and kicked. Once, I took cabbage for the kindergarten rabbits and she threw it in the toilet. Any hope I had of getting a lollypop for my good deed went down the filthy drain.
I reported the bullying endless times, but no one was willing to believe that there was such a demon in their midst.
Olivia followed me to Nakasero Primary School where we shared a class for two years. The bullying continued, but with more intensity than before. The early 1980s were tough times in Uganda and only a privileged few could afford luxuries like new school bags, containers and shoes for their children. My mother made simple shoulder bags out of scrap material that was sent by charities abroad. The patchwork bags were colorful and cute and although I loved them, they attracted endless ridicule from by classmates.
For Olivia, it was a source of amusement for her to throw my bags over the school fence behind our class and on to Sezibwa Road every week. You cannot imagine my confusion on finding my small pigeonhole at the back of the class mysteriously empty. I only discovered what was happening to my bags when a nameless pedestrian picked up one of them from the sidewalk and brought in into the school.
Eventually my parents and teachers agreed that my bag would be locked in the teacher’s cupboard every day to protect it. I was forced to eat my meals alone in a deserted classroom where Olivia could attack me at my weakest, taunting me for being a Banana Monkey, a Brown Rotten Potato and wearing plain panties and old socks.
It didn’t help that my brother, Paulo, was drawn into the bullying. One day when I picked him up from the kindergarten for our long walk from Nakasero hill to Namirembe Olivia sneaked up on us and pinched Paulo with such ferocity that his skin broke and he bled profusely. I couldn’t explain why she did that, but at least I finally had a witness to my torture.
At the end of the third term in P2 I was at the top of the class. For my performance, I was praised in front of the Lower School assembly and given a brand new mathematical set. No sooner had the assembly ended than Olivia grabbed it from me and stomped on it, destroying it completely.
I never did stand up to Olivia Nansamba. I never could. My father always told me not to fight in school and to report any injustice to the authorities. But the authorities didn’t care.
Place: Umeme Najjanankumbi branch office
Date: November 13, 2007
Tunes: I’m not Alright by Sanctus Real
Mood: Confused and angry
I am bullied as an adult, but I am still holding on to my father’s advice. I will not fight in public and I try to report any injustice to the authorities. But the authorities still don’t care.
The Ugandan electricity distributor, Umeme, is bullying me. Every month for the past three years Umeme has given me a greatly inflated electricity bill. Having no access to my electricity meter, since I am never at home when they come knocking, they have resorted to estimating what my monthly usage is. Their estimation is based on the fact that my house is a three bedroom double storeyed unit with a large garage.
Before April this year, I would take the time to correct the estimation, bringing the Umeme staff into my house to show them that only one room is occupied, I have no electrical equipment apart from a small radio, an iron and a fridge that doesn’t work, and I am only home from 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. everyday (something of which they have documented evidence). I would go through the laborious process of waiting in line for a new electricity bill and explaining and re-explaining myself.
In April, I was given one of the most absurd electricity bills ever. In their wisdom Umeme estimated that over a period of 30 days I used electricity worth 450,000 shillings. The previous month, I had only used electricity worth 15,000 shillings. Suddenly, it seemed, I had become extremely wealthy, affording to set up a small factory in my house. I went to the Umeme office, laughed at the workers and threw the bill in their faces. I didn’t hear from them at all. Not a peep. Not a word until this.
Since I was not at home my electricity was disconnected from the pole in my neighbor’s compound. They say all bullies are cowards which makes sense seeing as Umeme and their lawyers couldn’t serve me in person.
Yesterday afternoon, I visited the Umeme office again, vowing not to be bullied again. Armed with receipts and bills I demanded justice. Where were the bills for the previous months? How was the estimation done? Why wasn’t I served in person? No one was willing to listen to me. It was only until I called in my lawyer, who is the biggest bully of them all, that I was given my proper bill of 177,000 shillings for the seven months and my electricity was reconnected.
I don’t know what to do with my father’s advice. I am continuously bullied and I don’t know how to stand up for myself. Should I learn how to fight in public? Should I give up on the authorities that are meant to protect me?