DaysOfTaqwa: Rebirth InterludeII

Interlude II: Of memories best forgotten…

One year ago.
Bushrah hurried down the path away from the school library, books clutched tightly to her chest. She had just finished a study session with two of her classmates and it was almost closing time.
As she passed by the new science lab that was not yet completed, she spotted a group of students lazing around the premises. She curled her lip. They were no strangers to the school population. Everyone knew The Rebels;
Femi ‘Fire’ Pickard, Shakir Adams, Sholape Martins, Maureen Ude, Augustine Tobe and Sunkanmi ‘S.K’ Abiola — the ringleader of their merry band of mischief makers.
They were laughing– no howling– at something/someone. Bushrah squinted and could make out another student trudging away from them as fast as he could, head bent, shoulders shaking. His head and entire school uniform were coated with a whitish substance which she was 100% sure The Rebels had doused him with.
Bushrah put her own head down and hastened her footsteps, determined not to get into any altercation with them as she disliked confrontations. There was no other way to make it to the main school buildings, however, without passing directly by them.
Why did the school have to situate the library so far back in the complex?
She began to mutter a prayer for temporary invisibility, hoping to God that none of them would spot her.
It was too late.
As she walked past them, she felt someone bump into her from behind, causing her to stumble forward. Her heart sank.
She turned to see Maureen and Tobe standing behind her smirking.
“Watch where you’re going, towelhead,” Maureen said.
Bushrah felt a wave of embarrassment as she realised they were talking about her hijab. She tried to ignore them and continue walking, but they followed her, taunting her.
“Hey, what’s under that thing? Are you bald?” Sholape shouted from her perch by S.k’s side. Her words elicited more laughter from the group.
“I wonder how she hasn’t suffocated yet. How can you breathe in that?” That was Shakir.
By now they had overtaken her and trapped her in their midst. Bushrah fought back her tears. She wished she could just disappear or that someone would come to her rescue.
You can defend yourself, Bushrah. Didn’t Brother Adeola make you promise?
She steeled herself and spoke in as commanding a voice as she could manage.
“Make way and let me pass. I have somewhere to be.”
“Say that again?” Maureen stepped closer.
Even though Bushrah was quaking inside, she refused to back down. She lifted her chin higher.
“I said let me pass. If you prefer being idle, I don’t. So make way.”
“Ooh“ One of them, she was unsure who, whistled, and clapped.
Sholape breezed into the circle just then, coming to stand right in front of her. “The kitten has claws does she?” She crooned. All of a sudden she put out her hand and slapped Bushrah’s books from her chest, sending them flying to the ground. “I wonder what we’ll see if I do this.” Her hand went to Bushrah’s hijab.
They all hooted and whooped, no doubt eagerly awaiting Bushrah’s total humiliation.
No way would she allow that to happen.
Bushrah reacted on instinct. Her hand flew above her head, clutching Sholape’s own in a death grip.
“Keep your hands to yourself, Sholape. You don’t want to lose it do you?”
Sholape stared at her in shock. “How dare you?!”
They all turned to see S.K., jumping down from his seat on one of the windowsills where he had been lounging the whole time. He took slow steps to join them.
“Let the little kitten go,” He drawled. “There’s a far better quarry coming our way.”
He motioned with his chin to a spot behind them. Bushrah looked too and saw Abiodun coming their way. She had left him and two others at the library.
As if on cue, they broke the circle and joined S.K, who was already striding towards Abiodun. Sholape eyed Bushrah with eyes filled with malice– waiting for what, Bushrah didn’t know. At last, she moved to join the others but not before she stamped on Bushrah’s foot intentionally.
Bushrah sucked in a breath through her teeth. Pain spread across her right foot. It wouldn’t have hurt so much if Sholape wore normal school sandals like the rest of the students. Instead, she traipsed around the school in four-inch-heeled sandals.
“Oops sorry. Hope I didn’t hurt you,” Sholape said softly, voice laced with faux concern.
Sholape did not wait for a response, leaving a relieved Bushrah to bend down and try to pluck her books from the dirt.
Right foot still smarting, Bushrah clutched her books once more to her chest. She watched the scene unfolding before her in horror and disgust, helpless to do anything.
“Hey, so na you dey show yourself for football field yesterday abi?
“Oya take. Show us what you’re made of.” A football was thrust roughly into Abiodun’s chest causing him to stagger backwards.
Bushrah shook her head. Abiodun had only recently transferred to their school last month. How did he manage to get on The Rebels’ radar so quickly?
She wanted so badly to do something but what could she do? It would be two of them against 6. Not at all good odds by any means.
At least say something, Bushrah.
She breathed in deeply and yelled.
“Leave him alone!”
The Rebels didn’t seem to hear her. So engrossed were they in torturing poor Abiodun. She opened her mouth to shout this time, when another voice, older and with authority shouted:
“What are you guys doing? Break it up right now!”
Bushrah had never been more pleased to see anyone in her life. Mr Yomi, the gym teacher, ran towards the group, shouting all the way.
She sighed in relief.
Alhamdulillah. At least Abiodun would be spared.
Satisfied, she turned on her heel and limped back to her classroom.
© Hafsah bint Nurein
Bullying is a vicious cycle that harms everyone involved. 9 out of 10 times, it damages the self-esteem and confidence of the victim.
It’s important to recognise that bullying is not a harmless rite of passage or just “kids being kids.” Or whatever label is put on it. Whether ‘mild’ or ‘severe’ bullying is bullying.
But there are steps we can take to combat bullying. It starts with being aware and recognising the signs. If you witness bullying, speak up and let the bully know that their behaviour is unacceptable. Be a friend to the victim and offer support and encouragement. If you feel you can’t handle it, try and get help.
If you’re a victim don’t suffer in silence. Talk to someone you trust, whether it’s a parent, teacher, or counsellor. They can offer guidance and help you develop strategies for dealing with bullies.
And remember, bullying is never the victim’s fault. Don’t blame yourself or believe that you deserve to be treated badly. You deserve to be treated with respect and kindness, just like everyone else.
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