Is Kenya going through a winter of discontent? Let's watch out
SEE ALSO :True value of the blue economy to KenyaGiven the law, well-publicized cases of teacher in court for disciplining children, teachers watch from a distance. Who wants to lose a job when his or her kids are in school? The ministry of Education after banning corporal punishment, courtesy of human rights advocates, gave teachers no alternative or worse alternatives like counselling, better-called appeasement. Fining parents after students destroy property might be calculated to force parents to discipline their kids. That seems not to be working. We have brought in the police. A recent announcement by DCI that certificate of conduct will in future include behaviour in school was a clear indicator that indiscipline or is it discontent has entered a new phase. In our school days, we were threatened that our names would be entered in a “Black Book”. I’m yet to meet anyone who ever saw that book. I think it was a mythical book but police (CID) want to make it real. I fear the ghosts of George Orwell in his book 1984 are hovering around. Will information on student’s behaviour in high school as minors be misused by employers to deny them jobs? How many CEOs were once “crooks” in school? Involving police shows our helplessness with indiscipline. The discontent has external causes too. Beyond learning, bad manners from adults, we rarely inspire our kids; we feed them unbalanced diet of pessimism.
SEE ALSO :Leaders push to rename airportThey see no jobs; they see no future. Seeing no future, they burn the present. Our failure to inspire the next generation, our students is best espoused by growth in the number of Kenya’s newest professionals “motivation speakers“who have made schools their fertile ground. Who inspired us? Less talked about cause of discontent is idleness. We are paying the price of neglecting sports that keep our kids busy. One of the key characteristics of a good school is sports facilities. I noted that the secret behind my high school success was games which you participated in even during exams time. Guess where I schooled. How many schools exempt four 4 students from sports to give them time to read? One of the lessons I learned from my National Youth Service (NYS) pre-university training is that the easiest way to maintain discipline is to keep someone busy. We even watered the flowers while it was raining. My most memorable punishment at NYS is cleaning a tree, with soap and water! The discontent is our schools is not so different from South Africa during apartheid or Deep South in the USA during the age of segregation. What is perplexing is that our discontent is self-inflicted. Could it be an indicator of deep-seated social economic classes? In both nations, an underclass emerged frozen in time in prospects. We are almost there. Discontent might also be a policy issue. Do policymakers really understand what happens in our schools? Who came up with the idea of a national school uniform like the police? Why should Alliance High School and Mung’etho High School wear the same uniform? How do you delocalise teachers in their 50s yet they have invested in their locality economically, in social networks and in own families? Why not start it with new employees? Sadly, whatever the cause, discontent afflicts the poor or disadvantaged more. Not surprising because they are victims of corruption, joblessness and any dysfunctions of the social-political system. One high school principal told me students are not interested in applying to join university. Ever heard of high-end schools going on strike or burning schools? The discontent in the UK led to regime change with Margaret Thatcher becoming the first woman prime minister. She changed the British society with deregulation of major industries and labour unions losing their power. What will our winter of discontent lead to? It should lead us to soul-searching and identify the strategic drift of our nation. We can’t talk about Vision 2030 or Big 4 when our schools are on fire and when the inheritors of our dreams are discontented. When will they dream of their own tomorrow? Instead of burning schools, we dreamt of the coming of the golden age with good jobs, spouses, travel and a satisfying life. We even dreamt of an afterlife, when our life is finally over. We can recapture the Kenyan dream. If we do not act, we risk making school discontent the new normal. Yet, behind the economic growth of China and Asian tigers is the single-mindedness and focus of the youngsters and their discipline. No wonder they excel in sciences and maths. Koreans, Chinese and Asians take that discipline with them when they immigrate. They are behind the Silicon Valley innovations and are disproportionately represented in Ivy League universities. Needless to say, discontented citizens or students drag down economic growth. After all, feel good or pessimism are great catalysts of economic growth. Other nations will leave us behind if we make indiscipline the new normal. Maybe it’s time to return to the basics. Bringing up children was not supposed to be a nightmare. Conspiracy theorists say discontented youth, who hate school, will ensure Kenya remains the global supermarket for goods and services. That sounds more like African-America case in America’s Deep South. All these theorists can’t be intoxicated. Finally, the indisciplined or discontented high school students will become university students or discontented employees. We can’t romanticize an issue that will make us all discontented. As we pursue Vision 2030 or big 4 we must address discontented youths, or citizenry. After all, satisfaction with our lives is one of our keys goals irrespective of age or economic status. Why else is behavioural economics winning Nobel Prizes? —The writer teaches at the University of Nairobi [email protected]