Firefighters put out a fire at Maranda High School on December 5, 2021. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Education CS George Magoha’s pledge to build more approved schools brought to mind Lucky Dube’s song; Prisoner. Part of the lyrics say: “Somebody told me about it when I was still a little boy. He said to me, crime does not pay. He said to me, education is the key, yeah. As a little boy I thought I knew what I was doing, yeah, man. But today, here I am in jail, I’m a prisoner (Chorus)-They won’t build no schools anymore, all they build will be prison, prison….”

The song captures our societal conundrum in regards to the education sector. The recent spate of school arson is proof that youngsters don’t appreciate the value of education. Instead, they choose crime, which unerringly leads to prison. Dube’s exhortation was to the youth to shun crime in favour of education. Yet while that should be the clarion call of parents, society and government, we are resigned to building approved schools as the panacea to indiscipline.

Approved schools and borstal institutions originated in Britain in the 1900s. The distinction is that approved schools are meant for children between 10 and 15 years while borstal institutions cater for those between 15 and 18 years. Borstals, simply put, are youth prisons. In England, errant youth were sent there on the orders of a court, not an individual.

Is increasing the number of approved schools and borstals the best the government can do to rectify the youth, most of who are battling effects of hormonal changes or the emotional and mental conflicts associated with seeking self-identity as part of growing up process? Or fighting depression from broken homes and the ravages of poverty and social inequalities?

As it were, we seem to be groping in the dark and subscribing to knee-jerk reactions if they seem to serve the purpose. No one seems to know where the problem lies. Is it poor parenting, failed government policies, substance and drug abuse, heavy-handedness by school administrations, manipulation by disgruntled teachers or subordinate staff? Does the abolition of corporal punishment have a direct bearing on indiscipline? How about peer pressure and the influence of an unregulated, mostly sordid internet?

When headteachers are given the go-ahead to let want-away students leave school, or when many people coalesce around the notion that approved schools, borstals and a return of the cane will improve discipline, the inevitable conclusion is that we have all lost it. Considering that the abolition of corporal punishment and emphasis on child rights are products of the Constitution, the question arises; does the Constitution give us rights and freedoms that we are ill-equipped to handle? Should they be revoked?

Again, one wonders, is raising kids merely mechanical, not a special God-given responsibility anymore? Arguably, most parents tend to take more interest in their careers than in raising responsible children. In many homes, the interface between parents and their kids is before the television where little is said by way of sharing or bonding. That is the genesis of parental failure and the cradle of indiscipline.

Many parents shirk their responsibilities and assume teachers will take them up, and therein lies the illogicality. Some of the teachers, first and foremost, are parents who, too, have failed in their parental obligations. Besides, the demands of their careers leave them no time to double up as teachers, chaperones and mentors.

We must honestly try to establish where the rain started beating us as a guide to finding the right remedy. Prof Magoha seems to prefer the lone ranger tactics. Evidently, consultation, despite being embedded in the Constitution, appears alien to him. He must get out of this mindset and call for consultative meetings with all stakeholders.  

George Magoha;Education CS;Students Unrest;School Fires;Indiscipline