Cure this indiscipline madness in schools

Evelyn Jepkemei


The case of five students who disappeared from Stephjoy Academy in Limuru only to resurface a week later at a TV station and the cavalier manner they were received by their parents has shocked many Kenyans.

That indiscipline is a big problem in our schools is no secret. From homosexuality, to arson, bullying, violence and addiction to alcohol and hard drugs, the concoction of indiscipline is proving to be a very hard nut for teachers and parents to crack.

Are we facing a parenting crisis? Are schools, and teachers by extension, unable to raise children with the right social values? Is religion no longer able to inculcate the spiritual values that have traditional fostered personal discipline among the youth?

Indiscipline in our schools and the way it is handled impact directly on teacher motivation and learning in the classroom. But it goes beyond that. Students who are removed from the classroom and sent home as a punishment are seen by peers as ‘heroes’. They enjoy the trips, diet, internet, TV and music at home. If they are in boarding schools, they miss lessons and end up on a poor learning trajectory. Such children tend to drop out of school and have a higher likelihood of ending up in the criminal justice system.

In years past, home was the place where behaviour was shaped. The extended family saw to the entrenchment of family and community values. Transgressing those values called for discipline. Children therefore went to school already imbued with a sense of right and wrong.

They came to school with basic virtues and life skills such as honesty, courtesy, and perseverance, which were nurtured and engrained within the family or closely knitted communities.

But the students of today are radically different from those of a generation ago. With the fragmenting and decline of ‘community’, the aunts and uncles no longer teach what was for them to teach. The teacher has taken up the burden of teaching the overt as well as the covert curriculum. With kids not modelled from home, the norm in school is dishonesty, rudeness, and impulsiveness and insensitivity.

In an attempt to align itself to the 21st century, caning was banned in Kenya and counselling prescribed. Unfortunately, teachers are not equipped to deal with certain levels of indiscipline because they are not human behaviour specialists. They lack the skills to handle emotional and behavioural problems and because of this gap, they still cane indisciplined pupils while others just watch helplessly.

For counselling to replace the cane, teachers must be well trained in behavioural sciences, social and emotional intelligence and leadership. It is asking the impossible of teachers to demand that they create the win-win environment in schools through counselling, yet educationists admit the course is not adequately covered in the curriculum for teacher training.

And for the discipline process to be reformed, the change process must be managed by getting the support of the teachers. The top-bottom approach where a circular is issued from ‘headquarters’ will not work because an effective leadership model is needed to generate the commitment of teachers, school principals and parents and to create an understanding of how the new methods will pay off.

In the interim, deeply ingrained but outdated habits and ideas about discipline reign, both at home and in school, while children who are lonely and unsure of their identity, do outrageous things to seek attention.

The writer is an educationist and a graduate student on Leadership and Emotional Intelligence.