Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has promised to eradicate bullying and make schools safe for learners.
Matiang’i directed all school heads to investigate cases of bullying and take the necessary action against those found culpable.
The minister, who spoke during a graduation ceremony at the Kenya Coast National Polytechnic yesterday, warned school heads that they will be held responsible if they don’t tame bullying in their schools.
His statement comes in the wake of reports of bullying at one of Kenya’s top secondary schools, Alliance High, based in Kiambu County.
Parents, old boys and other stakeholders are enraged that senior students attack Form Ones, tortured and injured them.
Dr Matiang’i said the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) is investigating all cases of bullying, and urged all stakeholders to join efforts to eliminate the vice.
Other reports have it that some senior students resorted to bullying to protest sudden retirement of the institution’s principal David Kariuki.
“TSC, former students and religious leaders are dealing with the issue of bullying at Alliance High School. It is my intention that the matter is dealt with quietly. The matter will be resolved in two weeks time. It is unfortunate but we are consulting and soon the issue will be put to rest,” Matiang’i said.
Kisumu Senator Anyang’ Nyong’o, a former student of Alliance High, said he was shocked that bullying is taking place at the premier secondary school in this day and age.
“Even as old boys plan to visit the school soon over the issue, I want to take this early opportunity to condemn the cases of bullying in the strongest terms possible,” said Prof Nyong’o who was a student at Alliance between 1962-1967.
He added: “There were no such things during our time. The worst form of punishment we were ever subjected to was to wash toilets. It was a duty that was performed by all Form One students but even then, other students would be cleaning other parts of the school.”
“Beating, caning or making people crawl on wet grass never occurred during our time. We are very annoyed because of what is happening. We were mocked for being ‘monos’ (Form Ones) but that was all.”
John Mbugua, who cleared Form Four at the school in 2009, blamed the reported cases of bullying on the administration.
He too said bullying was unheard of during his time. “Anyone who attempted to would be punished severely. This would include suspension from school and demotion of prefects found culpable,” said Mbugua. Mr Christopher Khaemba was the principal then.
“Punishment was never physical. Prefects had a jury system where if you made a mistake, you would be ‘booked’. After lunch, you went for your punishment. The punishment would be given based on the offense committed. In case the prefects were not able to handle the case, the deputy principal would come in. No beating was allowed, even from teachers,” Mbugua said.
Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale, a parent at the school, wants the disgraceful matter addressed away from the public glare.
Dr Khalwale, who spoke during a television talk show yesterday morning, said teachers and former principal Mr Kariuki should explain reports of bullying at the school.
“Our children are currently on mid-term. I urge the school to convene a parents’ meeting when learning resumes so that this issue can be sorted out once and for all,” he said.
Mr Benjamin Bett and Mr Julius Barno, also former students, said although bullying was common in schools in the 80s, no cases were reported at Alliance High School.
They expressed shocked over reports of harrowing tales of harassment of students, saying it was not the tradition of the school.
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“Those selected to join Alliance were always top performers who ended up serving the country in key positions. The institution was highly religious and students were disciplined,” said Bett, a management consultant, who was the school captain in 1976. “Prefects were disciplined and were supported by staff to effectively perform their duties,” he said.
Barno said: “I am shocked that this could happen. Anyone found harassing Form Ones, or any other student during our time would be expelled.”
Lee Kimathi, an architect based in Meru, said sometimes, teachers forced students to uproot tree stumps as punishment for harassing or bullying other students.
Kimathi, who joined Form One at the school after emerging tops in Meru, however, said most students took it as part of the learning process.
He added: “Form One students caught on the wrong side of the rule suffered a bit but we took it as part of learning. It made us become what we are. However, what I have read in The Standard on what has been happening there is scary because it wasn’t that bad in our time.”