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Positive education experience key to addressing cases of school violence

EDUCATION
By Antoney Luvinzu | November 12th 2021
Property of unknown value burned at Lugusi Secondary School. November 8, 2021. [Jackline Inyanji, Standard]

Almost from their birth, most parents would begin to consider where they would like their child to spend their school years, knowing that their child’s education is more than just filling their head with knowledge and skill sets.

They would hope that the school their children attends will speak to them in their ‘language’, amplify their aptitudes, tap into how the student learns, give them a solid grounding, shape their character for the better, et cetera.

They would hope that the school will have professional and motivated teachers who endeavour to see their children as children first, then students second, and treat them as such. Teachers who will identify pressure points and stressful situations and be able to walk them through it. Most importantly, they will consider a school with a reputation of upholding certain values that they (parents) give premium to.  

Romantic as this sounds, it mostly, and sadly so, applies to private/international schools for the most part, not so much in most of our public schools, for various and obvious reasons. Unlike public schools, private/international schools receive better funding from revenue collected from parents. As such, they are able to adequately invest in resources, infrastructure and personnel.

Public schools are often filled beyond capacity, the number of students far outnumbering the teachers, and even straining resources. As a result, stress levels are high. Such things as pastoral care, mentorship and counselling are not as well established in most of our public schools. This basically means students lack proper ‘sounding boards.’

The question here should be; why is it that students in private institutions (both high school and university) rarely resort to violence as a way to address issues? Why is it that students in public institutions snap at the slight provocation, or hint of stress?

Higher Standard of Conduct: Any human interaction is fertile ground for disagreement. So while there will always be conflict between students, most private/international schools have elaborate conflict resolution mechanism and behaviour policies. There should be clear behavioural policies complete with accompanying sanctions to specific misconducts. There are contracts that families must sign binding them to a certain code of conduct. Schools must strive to provide platforms for ventilation and conflict resolution.

All parents want their children to not only succeed academically, but also be well adjusted for life, and that begins with enrolling them in the right school environment. There are many factors that go into a positive education experience. The one deterrent of private schools is their cost but this means better resources for the learners in school, better education and better living conditions.

Will they survive being a number in a crowd or would they thrive with more individual attention? Will they receive the same level of differentiated attention and guidance a teacher of a smaller classroom can provide? Will the student develop a love of learning and respect for the classroom? Can their confidence and self-esteem flourish? Will they be motivated to pursue continuing education after they’ve graduated high school?

In most cases, the private school experience has the answers to these vital questions. This is the reason why private and international school students in high schools and universities hardly ever go in rampages and seem better adjusted/ have a handle on themselves even beyond school.

Standards in our public schools need to be raised, to a practical extent, to mirror what private/international schools offer.

The consequences of school violence in public schools are grave, as extreme cases have led to the loss of human lives. Other effects of school violence include vandalism and loss of property–especially school facilities, moral decadence, poor human capital development, increase in crime rate, erosion of cultural values and a bad reputation for schools as well as societies.

Educational theorists such as Jacob Kounin and De Klerk have conducted extensive studies and came up with theories on how teachers’ ability can affect student behaviour through instructional management.

Kounin argues that the key concept of maintaining good discipline in school is not only the manner in which educators address the misbehavior of learners but rather the way in which educators prevent misbehaviour. He emphasised that the best way to maintain good discipline is to keep students actively engaged, whether in class or out of class activities, while simultaneously according them individual attention.

School violence is a multi-faceted social ill and may occur for diverse reasons. Some of the causes of unrest in public schools are poor school administration, parents’ lack of concern of their children, bad company, influence of students into bad company within the school, very strict school rules, poor diet and bad food in schools.

There is also poor teacher-student relationship, poor leadership, too much free time given to students or no free time at all, inadequate teachers in schools, drug abuse and peer pressure among students, lack of guidance and role models, lack of proper guidance and counseling, lack of rules that moderate students behaviour, and lack of spiritual guidance.

It can also be caused by psychological deficiencies created by dysfunctional homes. Worry, hatred, inferiority complex, anger and other negative emotions that fuel violent behaviour could develop in people when they are exposed to poor parenting or disaccord among family members. Many public schools lack channels of communication where students can air their grievances and give suggestions on matters affecting them. This has turned out to be the main reason why students in public institutions seem to believe that violence is the answer to their issues.

Having identified some major causes of school violence, it is imperative to give solutions to this social ill. Schools and educators can manage discipline through dialogue, addressing their grievances, holding pep/motivational talks, being firm on indiscipline cases, guidance and counseling, establishing disciplinary committees, invitation of external counselors, encouraging free channels of communication, provision of decent food, establishing well-defined school rules/essential agreements between both learners and teachers, parental involvement, et cetera.  

The ministry of Education can organise annual training for secondary school prefects on managing fellow students in schools. The Kenya Secondary School Heads Association should meet on a regular basis to share experiences on managing students discipline in their respective schools. The Teachers Service Commission should also revise the teachers transfer policy especially when it’s during the crucial time of the term, in the middle of the syllabus.

Schools should set into action strong disciplinary measures that perpetrators of violence will face if they fail to abide by the institution’s rules and regulations. There should also be up-to-date security measures in schools and school-sponsored events. The school buildings and school-sponsored events should also be properly guarded in order to quickly detect any possible threats of violence.

The need to engage students in awareness campaigns cannot be over-emphasised. Students should be counselled and enlightened on anger-management, conflict resolution, character development and a host of other topics that will help to deal with the psychological issues associated with school violence.

Parents/guardians have a key role to play as they ensure that the atmosphere at home, where the child is nurtured is free of violence. Adults should bear in mind that teenagers are impressionable and, as such, they tend to adopt their behavioural standards from what is obtainable in their households.

Effective communication between parents and their children will help reduce some of the perceived pressures that cause students to act violently. Also, proper monitoring of the association that children keep is a means through which the problem of school violence can be solved. Parents may also keep tabs on which media content their children are exposed to. The larger community such as non-governmental organisations should make concerted efforts to reach out to students and other youth in order to properly address issues of drug abuse, social anxieties and other forms of mental or affective disorders.

The government should also update statistical data on school violence in order to further enlighten the public about the menace. Violence in schools is a social problem with an enormous ripple effect–one act of violence can trigger numerous negative outcomes hence the community is expected to work as a whole in order to curb this social ill.

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