The atrocious findings by the Teachers Service Commission and Ministry of Education about systemic bullying at Alliance Boys High School calls for serious reflection and quick action.
Claims of corporal punishment meted out on Form Ones by fellow students cast a long shadow on the great achievements of a school established in 1926 by the Alliance of Protestant Churches.
In truth, the alumni of the school fondly referred to as “Bush” tops the roll call of who-is-who among the country’s elites. The mention of Alliance High School conjures the image of glamour and success. It is the dream of every male child sitting their KCPE exams to join Alliance High School. And indeed, Alliance has been, and continues to be one of the best schools in the country.
Sadly though, a darker side of Alliance High has emerged.
So what really goes on in schools behind the high fences? The norm has been that students who exhibit the highest levels of discipline, dilligence, humility and are a generally good examples to other students, become school prefects. The Alliance High School findings has turned that logic on its head.
Indeed, it is hard to reconcile the finding that prefects, who ideally are the bridge between the schools’ administration and the students, propagate the worst forms of violence against fellow students; beating them using hockey sticks and electricity cables and leather belts.
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It is equally hard to imagine that the school management was completely oblivious of the violent “induction” administered to Form One students.
The common thread here is that older students have routinely taken advantage of new students who are vulnerable. So rather than be made comfortable, the Form Ones are routinely forced to spend nights without food in graveyards and even get physically assaulted. As a result of injury, one student now walks on crutches.
How this could go on without the school authorities getting wind beats imagination. Yet bullying is just one form of juvenile delinquency; drug addiction and sex orgies are common among students nowadays. These problems cut across the board and almost every school in the country has its dark side carefully concealed from public scrutiny. This raises many questions: Has student discipline sunk to such despicable levels that sadism should be accepted? What role do teachers, subordinate staff like watchmen and other caretakers play in a school environment?
Can’t questions be asked by teachers why a student who joined a school in perfect health weeks before should be walking around on crutches? As in the Alliance case, is it possible a student could spend the cold night on a grave without the watchmen on patrol getting suspicious?
As Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has said, head teachers must be held personally accountable for what goes on in their respective schools besides the academics. The administration of Alliance Boys should be made an example to the rest.
Schools are meant to produce all-rounded, confident individuals ready to take on the challenge of nation building. But when school, a protected environment, becomes a torture chamber, the traumatised individuals come out disillusioned, bearing a grudge against society. Something must be done to stop this culture that apparently, is widespread.