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Do more to end cases of indiscipline in schools

OPINION
By Agumba Ndaloh | February 1st 2021
A firefighter puts out fire at a dormitory at Kisumu Boys High School on January 26, 2021. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

It’s like the ogre of indiscipline in our secondary schools is back. For the past three weeks, various forms of unacceptable behaviour have dominated the media.

The most macabre acts have seen students assaulting both teaching and non-teaching staff.

Its apogee was the murder of a security guard in my alma mater - Nyang’ori High School in Vihiga County.

Use of crude weapons to attack teachers and other members of staff in broad daylight has never been recorded in the history of student indiscipline in our schools before. What went wrong?

The current spate of indiscipline comes against the background of a long closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic; a period which saw learners engage and experience things that run counter to what the curriculum demands of them.

Coupled with the learning loss and the traumatic situation the learners went through, cases of indiscipline were bound to spike.

As a major stakeholder, the government and its officers should have been prepared for this eventuality. Unfortunately, no effort was made to address the challenge.

Ours was a hurry to open schools as we pushed the crash programme of teaching down the throat of the poor teacher.

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Interestingly, as the learners came, even the teacher failed to realise that the child needed to be treated ‘abnormally’. Instead, the same authoritarian approach that has marked our secondary school system for eons has remained the modus operandi for most teachers.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations has threatened dire consequences for those found culpable of criminality among students. Yes, this is good. But do the students understand what they are being told?

Assuming they do, will investigations be above board? Or will they be left to the ill-trained teachers in matters investigation, who will bring witch-hunt and vendetta to settle scores with those in their negative arm?

Schools lack systems to address the psycho-social wellness of the learners. More so, adolescents.

Kiambere mixed secondary school dorm where a fire razed the facility. [Muriithi Mugo, Standard]

The issue of indiscipline, though worrying and should be nipped in the bud, is a manifestation of our society. We live in a violent, corrupt, selfish and egoistic world.

This is what the learners have borrowed from us. Look at how we conduct our politics, labour relations and even our socio-economic lives.

The truth is that it mirrors what we are witnessing in our schools today. So should we blame the mirror for our lopsided face?

Many studies have been done on the causes of indiscipline. However, we have always made motion without movement.

Nobody has bothered to implement the rosy recommendations that have issued from the studies and the many task forces’ reports.

We have always resorted to simplistic and knee-jerk approaches in tackling the challenge. It’s in this context that we should examine the current ubiquitous threats and calls for re-introduction of corporal punishment.

Or even the outlandish and puerile calls for the abolition of boarding schools that were made previously. The truth is, these measures will do little to ameliorate the problem.

How will these measures, for example, address the many issues that have been found to be the provenance of indiscipline of students?

Top among which are drug and substance abuse; poor parenting or guardianship; poor leadership; traumatic stress; copycat behaviour; incitement by other members of staff and under-funding.

Others are congestion, poor infrastructure, totalitarianism, examination anxiety and learning loss.

If we can deal with these challenges, then we will be half-way in our quest to address the problem of indiscipline in schools. In fact, we are all responsible for the challenge of indiscipline in our schools.

Nonetheless, we should not sit on our laurels and watch children excel in criminality.

This will be suicidal. We must put concerted efforts to address the problem. The point to begin with is to look at the issue as concatenated. Threats will not help.

These are our children and we owe it to posterity to be the gardener whose responsibility should be to water the tender souls that the students are.

I am not calling us to be contrite to the acts of criminality that have become a feature of our secondary school system. Far from it. What we should do is to be authoritative in handling the issue of indiscipline in our schools.

This should be our croupier’s dice. We shouldn’t inure our children to a culture of violence.

Going forward, we should address the psycho-social needs of the students, increase security in our schools by installing state–of–the–art surveillance systems and hire competent personnel, encourage a democratic environment and beef up mentorship programmes.

The students found culpable of the criminal acts should also be punished accordingly.

However, the punishment meted should reflect their age. As parents and guardians, we should also take our parenting responsibilities seriously.

Teachers should be re-tooled on how to handle the 21st century learner. Finally, it is time the government addressed the issue of congestion, poor infrastructure and inadequate funds in schools.

-Dr  Ndaloh teaches at Moi University [email protected]

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