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School CP - August 2004

Corpun file 13886

East African Standard, Nairobi, 11 August 2004


Bring Back the Rod And Save the Child

Some people are rightly outraged by what the once reputable national music festival has become. From a showcase of talent, it has degenerated into a house of debauchery, moral turpitude and generally a microcosm of the crucibles of evil and indiscipline that some of our schools have become.

Cases of boys hardly out of their eggshells drinking chang'aa and smoking and girls and boys openly canoodling and insulting their teachers have rightly assaulted the moral side of many Kenyans.

Yet, any sense of outrage may be, at best, pretentious. What right, we may ask, do we have to expect students to be more disciplined than they are?

What measures have the parents, teachers and school administrators taken to insure discipline and respect from these students? If we look closely, there are none whatsoever. Parents are mainly to blame for this state of affairs.

They have emasculated school administrations and teachers so that instilling discipline has become a legislative matter. Today's parents are in denial. They believe in their children so much that they treat them like shatterable objects. They will allow them to drive even when they have no driving licence and drink and smoke because their favourite characters on TV do so.

They are the ones who advocated the ban of corporal punishment and sided with their children when they misbehave. They have showed their children openly that they do not respect teachers and the teachers, in turn, live in mortal dread of what would happen if some parents heard that they were disciplining their children.

No wonder many just watched impotently as the pupils kissed in public and staggered into KICC drunk. Teachers have become an emasculated lot because children are reared in fishbowls. Having then removed the authority of the teacher, by what means do the parents or the government, for that matter, expect students to be disciplined?

The government, too, has paid lip service to drugs and alcohol in schools. Establishing National Campaign Against Drug Abuse (Nacada) was not enough. Empowering it might be the beginning of a long process of bringing back our children into the fold. But is the government serious about this?

If they cannot enforce a simple thing as the ban on glue sniffing, by what means do they expect youngsters to stay off drugs and alcohol?

Let's face the facts: The students are wrong. But they are a reflection of our failures. Having sown the wind, shouldn't we now reap the whirlwind?

Copyright 2004 The East African Standard. All rights reserved.

Corpun file 13909

Daily Nation, Nairobi, 18 August 2004

Return of the Cane is Ruled Out

By Paul Udoto
in Nairobi

The Ministry of Education has ruled out reintroduction of caning in schools to contain student violence.

Instead, it has sent handbooks on alternative forms of punishment to schools and warned that teachers flouting the ban on caning risked being sued.

"Many teachers still believe that if you give students a lot of freedom, they will rebel. But they have no choice over caning, as it remains illegal," said Mr Eliud Barasa, a senior ministry official, in response to students who complained that corporal punishment was common in schools despite its ban.

The 70 students from 10 districts are attending a one-week first national human rights forum for schools at the Sportsview Hotel in Nairobi. The course started yesterday.

The students raised questions on famine, poor academic performance, freedom of expression and re-admission of pregnant girls into schools.

Susan Akuyo from Turkana wanted to know what the Government was doing to improve academic performance in semi-arid areas, while Ekuom Patricia wanted to be told how students could demand freedom of expression in schools without appearing disrespectful to teachers.

Mr Barasa said many teachers were aware of human rights laws, and cautioned the students against disobeying those in authority in the name of rights.

"If you talk to your teachers with the arrogance of human rights activists, you will not go far. You must approach teachers with respect for them to listen to you," he said.

The function, organised by the Kenya Human Rights Commission, the Trocaire Education Unit of Ireland, the Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya and the Nakuru and Lodwar Catholic dioceses, is intended to train students in human rights issues.

Mr Barasa, who represented the director of education, Mrs Naomy Wangai, said that only MPs could lift the ban on caning.

Copyright 2004 The Nation. All rights reserved.

Corpun file 14284

Daily Nation, Nairobi, 19 August 2004

Rethink the Ban on Caning

The Ministry of Education seems adamant. It says it will not relent to the persistent calls to reinstitute caning, traditionally thought to be the most effective way of enforcing discipline in schools.

The upsurge of indiscipline - unreasonable demands, strikes, even arson - is blamed on the law that has in recent years forced teachers and even parents to spare the rod. The ban itself was a result of protracted arguments that the cane was too brutal.

It is true that school caning -a tradition we borrowed from colonial Britain when it introduced the classroom form of education - allowed teachers to take the law into their own hands.

Often, they were high-handed, callous, cruel, unable to draw a line between punishment and sadism. Many beat their young wards till they became unconscious or died.

If it is true that the ban on caning has a multiplier effect on school indiscipline, then, clearly, those who demand its reinstitution have a case. Its only weakness is that we, the parents, have not yet been shown a scientific proof of this causal link.

We repeat, nevertheless, that it is a big "if". We just cannot be ignore it with a wave of the hand. It may be that the cane can play a definite role in "straightening" our children. Again it may not be.

The need, then, is to subject these "maybes" and "maybe-nots" to the most deliberate and most intense study by sociologists, psychologists, pedagogues and other experts to establish exactly what role the cane can play.

It may be found that a compromise is what is needed - in which caning is re-established but teachers can use it only as a deterrent, very carefully meted out, not as a destroyer of children's bodies and spirits.

Caning was an instrument of nurture even in pre-colonial times. The difference was that parents usually avoided tools like iron bars. As a rule, they did not attack parts of the body linked to vital organs. And beating was not too prolonged.

This is the kind of compromise that the protagonists and antagonists of the cane might reach. Caning would be humane and reform-oriented, not an instrument of torture and death.

Copyright 2004 AllAfrica (via Comtex). All rights reserved

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