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School CP - August 2000
Daily Nation, Nairobi, 7 August 2000
Rising Student Unrest Blamed On Poor Managers
By Samuel Siringi in Nairobi
High-handed administration, lack of dialogue and rigid rules are to blame for the increasing cases of student unrest. Political interference, drugs and general social disorder also contribute to school strikes.
Interviews by Blackboard established that management in most schools was dictatorial, a practice that antagonised students.
Communication between teachers, on the one hand, and learners, parents and even the community on the other, is more often than not strained.
The director of Starehe Boys Centre, Nairobi, Dr Geoffrey Griffin, said: "Poor standards of discipline manifest themselves in lacklustre performance in national examinations."
Indiscipline can also be attributed to fear and frustration inflicted on students by the administration. "The more free and happy a boarding school is, the less the stress and possibility of a strike," he explained. On whether corporal punishment should be scrapped in schools, Dr Griffin recommended a middle of the road ground: "It should be moderate. Caning should be avoided, but dropping it would also not be favourable."
Most schools have over used the cane to an extent that students resent the disciplinary measure and become violent. Pupils need to know that the cane is available and can be used when situations demand it.
Dr Griffin called for a review of school regulations to spell out the use of corporal punishment to ensure it is applied on boys only "or on girls on selected body parts like the laps".
At Starehe, it is only the director who can administer corporal punishment. This ensures that he keeps abreast of all serious crimes in the school.
Most cases of student unrest reported last year were attributed to drugs. But school administrators see these as symptoms rather than causes of indiscipline. Headteachers can minimise cases of unrest by boosting pupil morale in cases of severe academic stress.
At Starehe, most school activities are run by prefects. This, Dr Griffin explained, frees teachers to concentrate on academic matters. Prefects who cane students are demoted.
Starehe offers considerable freedom of movement and speech. "We ensure an environment in which discipline and punishment are not synonymous and pupils are orderly, happy and free from undue stress," the director added.
Students attend a baraza every Friday where students air their concerns. This, the administrator added, helps diffuse tension among the boys.
Dr Griffin warned headteachers against suspension and expulsion as measures to instill discipline in students, saying "they achieve very little".
"Many heads equate good discipline to punishment: Caning, suspension and expulsion instead of using methods that are more positive," he said.
Schools that operate in an environment of stress, harassment and fear do not provide an opportunity for students to perform better. Unfortunately, most schools in the country are run in this draconian manner.
They have failed to ensure high standards of discipline because headteachers do not operate an open communication policy.
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