No one can deny how this past week has been emotionally testing and triggering. From the horrific killings of queer bodies (WHICH NEEDS TO END) to the death of 15-year-old Lufuno Mavhunga who was bullied because of the colour of her skin, because she was ‘different’.
From the time I read about Lufuno’s passing, I was reminded of many buried memories from my primary and high school days, where I had to fight, take some public punches, or act like I am invincible and cannot hear their words just to survive that day.
It was always the slurs, being laughed at for being less than your typical boy child and fights after school where, for some reason, I always felt alone.
On one incident, as a grade 3 learner at Isidingo Primary, I was once again promised a fight, in these instances after school is a dread, especially if your walk back home is a fairly long one. Eventually, we met, right outside our neighbouring Zwelibanzi High School, I was faced by this boy and his group of friends.
We fought, but he left me with a bruised mouth. The fear of going back home, in this condition, paralyzed me. I got home and went straight to bed. I do recall my big brother uLunga asking me what happened, but it was a shameful moment for me, the 8 year old in grade 3, to be physically seen in my struggles.
This continued, in each school I attended. The effects are harmful, whether visibly clear or not. The effects of being bothered, of being laughed at, bullied, ridiculed, and shamed for being different, are damaging to how we see ourselves, how we interact with our world, and how we grow.
Fast forward to the beginning of COVID-19, I had to move home. This was the first time being home for a long period of time prior to leaving for varsity beginning 2015.
I am responsible for five children at home, three of my sisters in high school and my niece and nephew who are in grade 4 and 3.
Alongside my sisters, I believe we have created room for them to express themselves without feeling any shame or judgement. I want them to be free and to be themselves and to also respect others.
It is important to create a safe space for children to be vulnerable and speak their mind, not easy to initiate when they have grown, but it is something I am continuously learning.
Children who bully other children, are a microcosm of how society and the families they are raised in are structured. If not unlearned, they grow to be homophobes who kill other people for being different to what they deem correct.
No child should have to experience this harm. No teacher should allow this in their classroom, no adult should be silent when a child cries.
Teach your children to be gentle, to be mindful, and respectful of other people. Let’s go back to each and every person being responsible for the growth of a child. It is the only way we can ensure they grow to be adults who are diverse and less hurtful to others.
Simo Cele is a freelance journalist based in South Africa. You can find him on Twitter @Manzolwandl