The trouble with secondary schools and how to curb students' unrest

A student walks in between burnt school boxes on January 20, 2019, after a fire gutted down one of the dormitories at Awasi Secondary school in Kisumu county. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

When schools sent us home last year over the Covid-19 pandemic, we were forced to live in unfamiliar grounds with thieves, con men, drug dealers, paedophiles and all sort of evils one can think off.

Some of our girls fell pregnant while others were infected with the HIV virus. We had nothing to do; we loitered aimlessly in towns and villages. We are humans and as such could not be caged in our homes for a whole year. Eventually, we ended up damaged physically and emotionally. 

Things went wrong and when we went back to school, some fellow students turned aggressive. Used to being out there, schools made them prisoners. You could hear some of them saying loudly, “we are on a dry spell!” But our teachers had no idea. They would had no patience to listen to us. 

At times, students have ideas and views they would like to air, but those who try to speak out are suspended or worse, expelled from school. They are accused of being rude or of inciting others. Mostly, however, this is not the case.

Consequently, students are forced to spend more hours in class with no one listening to their opinions on such a decision.

To make matters worse, Covid-19, made most schools to alter their entertainment schedules so as to reduce congestion in entertainment venues. Some schools even banned leisure and entertainment. This affected students negatively. 

Exam-related anxiety, school workload, peer pressure and pressure from parents aggravated matters and made some of our colleagues burst into something else. Last term only, more than 35 schools were burnt, catching the government’s attention and intervention.

However, the State has intervened in the worst possible ways. The Ministry of Interior is now involved and students are now being victimised and criminalised over the fires. Do you know what it feels like when a 15-year-old student is imprisoned? It is a mind torturing experience.

Further, the idea of taking students' fingerprints and the threat of locking them out of employment in future is truly scary. Who would employ a person who allegedly burnt down a school? No one.

This worries us much as students and we live in constant fear of speaking out on issues concerning the school because nowadays that is called incitement and could earn one expulsion.

All said and done, we need to find out why some students went wild.

We also need find a lasting solution to this problem. I have some suggestions. Firstly, the government should reintroduce music and drama festivals, science fairs, scouting competitions, sports and symposiums since this help to reduce students stress and also act as an arena for them to vent their anger.

Secondly, the government should encourage healthy talks between the students and the school administrations and take action on school heads who fail to engage the students because this is the only way to foster the relationship between the students and the school administrators.

Thirdly, the government should shorten the school terms and if not add half-terms to the long terms.

Communication is the major issue that needs to be fixed in our schools. We need to be in constant communication with our teachers and school heads to inform them where we think things should be corrected or improved.

If that happens we will have a happy stay in school. In conclusion, listen to students and find ways of dealing with their problems.