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Chronology of Protest And Destruction in Schools

By Muchemi Wachira, The Nation (Nairobi), 21 May 2001

Nyeri - A worrying trend was that student unrest had evolved from simple protests to destruction of property and burning of prefects.

Devil worship, homosexuality and drug abuse are rampant in schools in Central Province, a new report says.

Several students have succumbed to devil worshipping, affecting their academic performance.

Homosexuality was particularly common in Kiambu and Thika districts, a fact attributed to their proximity to Nairobi, a city going through socio-cultural turbulence.

The report, prepared by the Provincial Education Board (PEB), says indiscipline was rampant in the province and was manifested in 122 cases of students' riots that occurred between 1999 and 2000.

In most cases, the disturbances were caused by students under drug influence or those captivated by external forces as a result of devil worshipping.

Leading the pack was Nyeri, where 26 cases of student disturbances were recorded. Next in the line was Nyandurua with 21, Kiambu 20, Kirinyaga with 19 while Murang'a and Maragwa had 15 each. Thika, with six, had the least.

The report was based on a survey conducted in the seven districts following a resolution at a PEB meeting last September. The resolution followed the stakeholders' concern over increased cases of student unrest in the province. The upshot was that student disturbances were impacting negatively on academic performance.

And if not checked, indiscipline may result in the province being relegated to academic oblivion, the stakeholders who included parents and members of Parliament and Ministry of Education officials warned.

So the PSDC was charged with the responsibility of gathering all the relevant data and information on indiscipline.

Entitled: "Report On Causes, Effects and remedies of Indiscipline in Secondary Schools in Central Province," the document blames teachers and parents for failing to instill discipline in the learners.

It was released by the Central Provincial Director of Education, Mr Peter Macharia, who is also the secretary to the PEB, during the Central Province Secondary School Headteachers Association's annual conference in Nyeri.

Political interference and feuds among community members also contributed to unrest in schools.

The report says some members of school boards with vested interest also created chaos as they incited students to riot to achieve their goals.

The media were also blamed for influencing the minds of students by constantly highlighting cases of violence.

A worrying trend was that student unrest had evolved from simple protests to destruction of property and killing of prefects as happened in Nyeri High School in 1999.

The report says education and culture were at crossroads, which had put students at a fix in terms of making appropriate choices in life.

Teachers and parents had failed to provide proper guidance. Some parents pampered their children with money and failed to provide proper direction to enable the children lead a discipline life. Worse, some parents always supported their children even when the latter had made grievous mistakes. In many schools, the report says, teachers were unwilling to listen to students' grievances. Corporal punishment was common and elicited antagonism between teachers and students.

Cases were also cited where students' unrest resulted when a headteacher with a poor track record was imposed on an institution.

When the best teachers were transferred and replaced by those rejected elsewhere, students were likely to protest the decision.

Some of the cases of unrest cited included Giakanja Secondary School in Nyeri District, where more than 500 students burnt dining hall chairs and broke widows. They also invaded surrounding farms, destroyed crops and stole property.

The students were protesting harsh punishment by a teacher on internship.

At Githungucu Mixed Secondary School in Nyandarua District, students pelted their teachers with stones accusing them of unjustified punishment.

In June 1999, Kangema High School students burnt down the administration block causing damage estimated at Sh3 million. They were incensed by harsh rules and frequent suspensions.

In 1999, Kagumo High School in Nyeri District, students went on strike to protest the institution's poor performance in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary School Examination.

The report also mentions a case where students of Kahuho Mixed Day Secondary School in Kiambu District rioted protesting indecent dressing by a female teacher.

A number of strategies were suggested to remedy the situation, including strengthening guidance and counselling programmes in schools. Students ought to be given forums to express their problems and get a hearing from their teachers.

Teachers were also asked to provide role models while headteachers were told to minimise powers of the prefects.

More recreational clubs should be introduced and equipped with facilities to occupy the students when outside class. This would also reduce cases of drug abuse.

The meeting was chaired by Ms Hellen Waweru, who is the principal of Ngandu Girls. Its theme was "Education and Culture at Cross Roads in Kenya."

Education Permanent Secretary Japheth Kiptoon, who closed the meeting, urged headteachers to instil discipline through counselling and guidance programmes.

The PS said: "All headteachers are expected to ensure that no corporal punishment is used on a student".

Prof Kiptoon, who was represented by a senior deputy director of education, Mr J. Okumu, also cautioned headteachers against expelling students, saying that was the responsibility of the director of education.

In his opening speech read by Mr Macharia, Education Minister Kalonzo Musyoka said the headteachers were expected implement the safety guidelines issued by the Government recently to curb disasters like the Kyanguli School fire, where 65 students perished.

Copyright 2001 The Nation. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).