The term that just ended has not been easy for school heads. Not with threats from Ministry of Education officials related to how to handle national examinations, the spectre of transfers by the employer and, the worst of them, student unrest.
The indiscipline witnessed in schools is an indictment to failure of the society, more so the school leadership. Our society has been coy in addressing the signs of indiscipline among adults and children alike.
I recently came across some students, whom I learnt were Form Threes from one of the schools that suffered an arson attack. Their suspension from school seemed to have given them respite from the ‘hostile’ school environment. They were happy for the break. That disturbed me.
As an educator, I know that we should try as much as we can to make the school environment be as close to the home one as possible so that learners enjoy staying in school and teachers become local parents. But the truth is that the school environment is nothing to write home about.
Our schools are run like autocratic camps, where the principals are more of demi-gods. Add to this the poor infrastructure and equipment, inadequate instructional resources, limited finance and bully teachers and they become an antithesis for learning. Little wonder they have become breeding grounds for truants, cheats, miscreants, drug addicts and, now, criminals.
The much-hyped talk by education bureaucrats that students burn schools because of fear of the forthcoming exams is just a Trojan horse. Nothing explains the problem than poor leadership at the school and national levels.
The half-baked measures may not achieve much. Better efforts should be made at mitigating the causes of the strikes than addressing the consequences. We should take counsel in the age-old adage that prevention is better than cure.
Let us make the lives of learners enjoyable at school. Give them hope. We should be cognisance of the psychology of adolescents. As adults, we should view the students as people who need help, not criminals.
Some years back, the government encouraged teachers to pursue guidance and counselling courses. Somewhere along the line the steam died. Our schools need counsellors. These are experts who will enjoy the confidence of the students, hence try to bring them to the right path.
Most schools have security guards who are poorly remunerated and not motivated. They become easily corruptible by those with ulterior motives. Students can easily bribe the guards to let them carry out nefarious activities.
Addressing the welfare of this lot can help prevent the arson attacks. We also need to increase the number of the guards in schools.
The school leadership should come out of their high pedestal and create a democratic environment in their institutions. We need inspirational leadership.
Address all the needs of those you lead. Let members of the school community be free to air their views. Work with all your teachers and other members of the school community. Do not segregate. Make them feel part of the school. Ensure that the learners can hold dialogue with you.
Prepare the entire school community to any changes you introduce. We should encourage all learner participation in co-curricular activities and introduce mentorship programmes and peer mediation strategies.
Ministry officials should also treat the principals professionally. Let us do away with the culture of dictatorship and know-it-all that characterises today’s dealings between the school leadership and the officials.
The chaos have been attributed to ‘exam fever’. That points to a problem with curriculum development and implementation. If everything was right, learners would face exams boldly. We need to de-emphasise exams and make the way we set and manage them discourage cheating.
Our system of funding schools is wanting. Schools suffer from huge financial constraints due to delayed funds from the government and high cost of living.
Running schools without money is quite a challenge to school leadership. Let principals be given money in good time to plan and finance various school programmes.
Research should be undertaken to find out why the strikes are more common in public schools in second term than the others.
We should think about empowering teachers to be in charge of the learners. It is strange that in a school with more than 500 students a strike can be planned without the knowledge of the teaching fraternity. Are teachers a frustrated lot?
Let us make our public schools avenues of training our youth to be responsible.
Dr Ndaloh, a curriculum, instruction and educational media specialist, teaches at Moi University. [email protected]