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Poor leadership could explain rise of arson, indiscipline in secondary schools

By Agumba Ndaloh | Dec 28th 2021 | 4 min read

Unless we democratise school leadership whatever we do will do little to ameliorate the arson and in-discipline cases. [Courtesy]

This school calendar year has witnessed a meteoric rise in incidences of arson and misbehaviour in our secondary schools. For once, even academic giants have joined the fray. This should make us as a society to scratch our heads and bring out the underlying reasons for the occurrence.

Many theses have been brought to account for the problem. Re-introduction of caning, abolishment of boarding schools and re-visiting of parental or guardian roles has dominated the galaxy of solutions.

Yes. Even though escapist, these are good proposals and somehow quick fixes to the issue of solving the sore issue of in-discipline in our schools. However, they miss the fact that even when caning and “good parenting” were regular features in our schools, arson and other forms of indiscipline were still features of our secondary schools.

Have we ever asked ourselves why this problem is only a diet of our public schools? Why are private schools, especially the high-cost ones, not victims of the problem? What can our public schools learn from these schools? How are the private schools managed? Does how the schools are managed resonate with what obtains in their public counterparts?  Finally, are we managing the public schools in lieu of the demands and skills of the 21st century?

It’s my considered view, that despite the proposals advanced as the antidote to the problem’s validity, the answer to some of these questions may provide inkling into the root of the problem.

Anecdotal interviews with teachers and learners partly point an accusing finger on outdated leadership practices. School leadership has changed little from what obtained in the colonial periods. Head-teachers are to say the least demi-gods. Their words are law to teachers, non-teaching staff and students. In fact, they are feared. It is hard to differentiate a student from a teacher when it comes to how one relates to the head-teacher. Most teachers and of course other workers give meeting the head-teacher a wide berth. Where they can avoid meeting him or her is usually the most trodden path. The story is the same among the students.

Now, with such a development do you need a rocket scientist to diagnose the source of the problem in our public schools? Can a student freely report a case of planned arson to the school leadership? And even if one was to have the intention of reporting the issue to the head-teacher, would the autocrat lend an ear?

Many a time some teachers are often in the know about the planned strike by students. The signs are often there and quite clear for those interested to see them. Moreover, the poor school leadership often segregates teachers from those pro and those opposed to the establishment. Students are always in the know of the blue-eyed boys and girls of the leadership and the dark horses of the regime.

Unless we democratise school leadership whatever we do will do little to ameliorate the arson and in-discipline cases from the shores of our schools. The problem is largely and majorly a product of totalitarian and clue-less leadership. It is time we made the school environment a replica of the home one. Let us have a transformative leadership instead of the tin gods that we have in the name of head-teachers. Aside from this, time is ripe for a democratic environment in schools. Let students, teachers and support staff are free as they go about their day to day activities. Yes the head-teacher should remain at the pinnacle of management but the candidate should be a first among equal not a tin god to be worshipped as he or she doles out a few morsels to subjects.

Other pertinent issue related to the problem which needs to be addressed is the issue of security and those tasked with the day to day security of the schools. Lapses may occur yes but an examination of the personnel tasked with security matters in most schools is a mockery of the whole task. More often than not, the guards are poorly paid, old, ill-trained and are everything not to look for when hiring somebody to provide security in any place. Many are drug addicts and criminals. Most are also not supervised closely at night for lack of an administrative structure like that in professionally organized organisations. At night, each is his own boss.

Anybody who has had a chance to get to know how girls-only schools run by Catholic nuns are managed must have realised how close-knit is the nun in charge of a dormitory with members of the dormitory. Such a nexus can’t allow arson or any bad incidence to happen without the nun’s knowledge and by extension, prevention. This is totally lacking in our public secondary schools. Time is ripe for the introduction of a robust and focused dormitory master/mistress system. Those entrusted with the mandate should be well motivated and be supervised closely as they discharge their responsibilities.

The issue of drug and substance abuse among learners should also be addressed. Students are actively involved in this vice. Conditions in schools should be tightened to nip any element of drug and substance abuse in the bud.



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