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Schools grapple with learners’ mental health questions

By Augustine Oduor | January 22nd 2021
Edwin Mokaya, a teacher at Kisii School, is assisted by nurses at Ram Hospital after he was stabbed by a form three student. [Sammy Omingo,Standard]

Schools are grappling with rising cases of indiscipline among learners, raising questions about the state of students’ mental health.

Ugly scenes of students attacking their teachers while tutors instill discipline are clear manifestation of the bad manners learners have picked.

Kenyans were in shock last week when a Form Three student in Kisii School allegedly attacked two teachers while being punished for missing evening studies.

Before the attack, the student had been asked to kneel down as part of the discipline procedure.

Another student from Mokwerero secondary school in Nyamira County allegedly attacked the deputy principal of the school with a panga.

Detectives in Kwale last week arrested a 17-year-old for being in possession of a knife while in class.

In Western, an 18-year-old Form Three student is facing murder charges after he assaulted and killed the school guard.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) said the student had been unruly and attacked other learners using a metal rod.

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The DCI report says when the school guard intervened, the student hit him on the head with the rod.

And in Central region, three students were arrested in Kirinyaga county for allegedly burning Karía secondary school on Sunday.

Education experts traced the rising cases of student indiscipline to prolonged closure of schools, poor parental guidance and school related stress leading to poor mental health.

Experts said some of the learners were reporting to school after long periods of neglect, poor parenting, Covid-19 related stress and depression.

The condensed school term dates have also exerted pressure on learners, with many feeling the heat to grasp many concepts within a short time.

The fear of upcoming national examinations is also adding to learners stress levels.

Poor methods used by teachers to punish learners have also come under sharp focus with reports that the tutors could be fanning the already-bad situation.

Wesaya Maina, an education expert, said the mental health of learners was ignored as part of the return to schools strategy, throwing schools managers into a spin.

Maina said teachers were ill prepared to face the new realities of learners’ behaviour following the long closure of schools.

He said when schools reopened, teachers received different sets of learners, some who had acquired bad behaviour and traits occasioned by parental lapses, drugs and substance abuse and peer pressure.

“The incidences and occurrences of use of violence by learners has caught teachers off guard and this is because the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) failed to prepare teachers on matters mental health and psycho-social support,” said Maina.

Paul Wanjohi, national organizing secretary Alternative Provision of Basic Education and Training (APBET) complimentary schools association said during the long closures, learners’ engaged in different activities that contributed to picking of bad manners.

“Some got addicted to the phones as they used them for e-learning. Through this they were introduced many things, which are not to their level,” said Wanjohi.

Moses Ayier, a high school teacher and a Leadership and Mind Coach called for mental audits and said teachers may also need counselling.

“Have we lost the psychological perspective of handling learners? Could it be that we do not listen to them o may be we are more directing rather than guiding?” said Ayier.

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