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Voice | ‘Every afternoon I came home from school broken’

Stepanakert. Image via freshnovosti.com

Narek, 29, from Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, describes how he was tormented at school, while teachers often protected the abusers.

‘In fifth grade, a maths teacher began being unnecessarily hostile towards me. In almost every lesson she gave me the lowest marks. As a result, I failed the year badly. I still hate maths.’ 

‘I repeated the year but was forced to move to another class.’

‘Some tough guys there took an immediate dislike to me. No matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, they didn’t want to be friends with me. I was chubby.’

‘Some guy simply didn’t like me and started talking smack about me. He told his friends and of course, they listened to their friend, not the new guy. Nobody bothered to try and get to know me.’

‘Every day when I went home, I told my mum that I wanted to be transferred to another school. But she told me that I had to be strong and hold it together. And so every morning I faced my fears and went to school.’ 

‘Every afternoon I came home broken, wanting nothing more than to leave my school. And so it went for 5 years.’

‘If any problem arose, I was immediately blamed. There were always fights during sports lessons — in the locker room, during matches, after matches… You can’t do anything about them. You put up with it. If I had five fights a day, I was lucky. Anyone whose mindset was different was a target.’

‘All the boys played football. I don’t like football, but I tried hard to make an effort and make friends, but I failed. The other boys insulted me every day and beat me up.’

‘I thought of myself as a chameleon. I had to give the impression of liking football — even though I hated it.’

‘I had a false friend at school who often betrayed me. We constantly fought. Everyone else avoided me. There was one other boy [who was also bullied], but I didn’t even try to be friends with him because he was either surrounded by friends or being bullied.’

‘Teachers can support both you and those who are against you’

‘The teachers used to tell me: “It can’t be that everyone else is wrong and you’re right. You’re wrong. You are the only child in the family; you are a selfish oaf. No wonder no one likes you”.’

‘The teachers were all in the know. Each time my parents complained, the teachers would say that everything would turn out fine. I didn’t want my parents to interfere. If they interfered, then everyone would turn even further against me, and if they didn’t, the nightmare would continue regardless.’

‘There were no limits for the teachers. They could tell me off for bad behaviour in front of the entire class. They complained to my mother that I had no social skills, that I was often fighting.’

‘I don’t think there was a psychologist at school, but [my parents] sent me to a psychologist at the children's hospital because the teachers thought that there was something wrong with me. The psychologist told me that everything was fine.’

‘Only once was I treated with sympathy by a teacher. The teacher, who taught the history of the Armenian church, noticed what was happening. She called me to the blackboard after other outstanding students had been called up. I repeated what they’d already said and she gave me the highest grade.’

‘The other students didn’t even wait for the break to complain. They immediately asked the teacher: “Why did you give Narek the highest mark? Is he your parikam [someone you wish well]?’

‘She replied: “Yes, I wish Narek well. Simply because you do not see the traits that I see in him, does not mean that they don’t exist. I wish him well and believe in him”.’

‘I sat down with a feeling that not everything in my life was hopeless. There are good people who care.’

‘Maybe I'm a mistake?’

‘I’m sure that many people face a situation where [a single person] is attacked by a handful of [people]. It may be physical, but the worst is moral. Physically, [something can happen in] five minutes of a school break and the teachers would separate you, if it’s not serious, like with knives, for example. But morally…’

‘You would think: maybe I'm a mistake, maybe I shouldn't live?’

‘I love life. But in those moments, I thought that maybe it would be better if I wasn’t alive.’ 

‘Seriously, there were such thoughts — thoughts of suicide... Only once. The commotion was so big that day that I turned to some older guys from the college next door to help me deal with this situation, because I was completely alone. Besides my classmates there were guys from other classes [who stood against me]; too many of them.’ 

‘Apparently, the guys from the college that came with me were told many different things, and they turned against me. Then I thought that, yes, maybe I deserve it.’ 

‘Those guys who came with me told me: “Just go home. You’re scum, better get out of here. You are completely pathetic”.’ 

‘And that day, I seriously thought, maybe suicide could be a good option. Because, to be honest, who needs you at all? Besides your parents, who needs you?’

‘Here are all these personal insults that I have not heard anywhere else, I went through this. And I had no support from anyone.’

‘I didn’t talk about it at home for some time, but then it was impossible to put up with it anymore.’

‘Anything could have happened if it were not for the support I received in the family, honestly.’ 

‘For example, I am so close to my mother that she is my closest friend, and I can tell her everything — this is a very rare occurrence. I tell her what I think, how I feel, and she always helps me as a friend, and she helped me get out of this. And I got out.’ 

‘There was another boy. He was beaten even more often. And so, he stopped attending classes. The teachers called his mother to find out why he wasn’t coming to school, and his mother replied that her child went to school every day.’

‘[It turned out that] he came, passed the school quietly, and ran away. I also thought about this, but I didn’t want to disappoint my mother, because my mother was sending me to classes, and I’m a good son, I’m at least good for someone in this life.’ 

‘The most important thing is to believe’

‘The most important thing is to hold on and believe in yourself. Everything will pass. It all goes away. You just need to understand that there are people who will judge you, and it’s not like if you’re not loved at this moment then you’re worthless. You are not! You just did not find your people. There is no one such person that everyone would like.’ 

‘The situation only changed when I graduated from secondary school and went to college.’ 

‘Of course, this situation influenced me. I don’t regret that I went through all of this because now I’m good at understanding people.’ 

‘After finishing school, such things didn’t happen any more, but I also worked on myself! Now everything is fine, people respect me and even consider me the life of the party.’ 

‘No matter how many people hate you. It’s important to have at least one person who fully accepts you and loves you for who you really are. It is the most important thing. The whole world may hate you, absolutely the whole world, you should not give a damn about it. It’s important to have at least one person.’ 

‘I don’t know how things are going on with this now [bullying at school], but I think it always happened and always will, although children have become smarter lately, it seems to me.’ 

‘But I want to raise this issue and film a support video on the issue of bullying at school.’

 For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.

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