If you attended a boarding school, like I did, you would probably have had the first-hand experience of bullying in boarding houses. What am I saying? Bullying is happening in some homes, on some streets. Some of it is obvious, others are covert… Under the radar. It is possible that you were involved – either as a victim, or the one bullying the weaker ones in your fold. You might have cheered the bully on, or turned a blind eye to it. It was not your business. Or was it?
Bullying appears to be common amongst boys. Why? I honestly don’t know. Perhaps it is a gender thing – with boys needing to show dominance and relevance by being more assertive and in control.
Wildlife documentaries show us that nature has no mercy for the weak. It may seem that bullying is some form of survival of the fittest “game” if one can call it that. Should we, as humans, be mean and wicked to the weaker ones in our midst? Should there be stricter surveillance and punitive measures to protect children in schools from bullying?
“7 Days,” by Seyade Shobby gives a detailed account of bullying in a boarding house in Nigeria, from the viewpoint of a boy named Tayo. Tayo experiences a “7 Day“ ritual of systematic bullying from which he tries to escape. There are other children facing the same thing to varying degrees. His ordeal describes a degree of bullying that is mind-boggling and worrisome. Where then lies the unity in this Unity school?
The book begins with a scary prologue that is surreal. I initially thought and hoped it was going to be distinct and separate from the story itself. The story unfolds slowly using lingua that teenagers can identify with. The account of Tayo’s bullying experience hits a crescendo towards the end which incorporates the scary prologue. It fit in at this point. The descriptions of characters, settings, and events were so graphic that I could imagine and relate to them. My favorite character description was that of Mr. Akpan “The Marked Man”.
“Mr. Akpan is six foot three with tribal marks that stopped his face from smiling and a constant smell of stale sweat. He always looked agitated and sweaty like he had just finished a workout. I guess he needed all the energy he could muster considering the vital role he played among the teachers – He was the flogging machine of the school”.
Though the subject matter of the book is a sober one, the author injected a lot of wit and humor into it. I found the last section of the book a little confusing. Reading it was like reading a SciFi novel with so many plausible accounts of events being recounted that one is not sure which one is real or imagined. At some point, I was convinced that Tayo had had a concussion and that the events I was reading about were as a result of his subsequent confusion.
The book ends unexpectedly with some explanation for Tayo’s experiences. The explanations do not come with a firm assurance that Tayo is finally safe, but leaves the reader wondering what else can happen. Could there be a sequel to this story perhaps? The explanation given reminded me of some stories of supernatural events in boarding houses I have heard of. Unconfirmed scary tales handed down from one set of students to another. The book contained a few typographical errors that a final round of editing can eliminate. However, it did not detract from my enjoyment of the story.
All in all, it was an enjoyable read that brought back memories of school days. I recommend it for secondary school students, teachers and parents. It can be a conversation starter for parents to discuss bullying with their children because this is not an easy topic for them to talk about. Some bullies can have a change of heart after reading this account of bullying from the viewpoint of their victims. Bullying is sometimes a vicious cycle with victims waiting for their own turn to bully others when they become seniors later on. This cycle needs to be broken for bullying to stop.
Seyade Shobby has done the theme justice in this novella. He brings to the fore-burner a prevalent issue that has plagued generations of secondary school students.
Mrs. C.A. Mbadugha’s debut short story collection “Beyond the Trial” won the 2017 Samuel Ajayi Crowther Award for best Christian Fiction. She tries to balance family and work commitments with book and manuscript proofreading, editing and reviews. She is presently trying to rouse her muse to write a sequel to “Beyond the Trial“. The stories in “Beyond The Trial” are published on Okadabooks as the stand-alone novellas: Erased Reproach, Rude Awakening, Shadows of the Past.