Only strict disciplinary actions will stem school fires

Monday, February 8th, 2021 00:00 |
Kimulot High School on fire.

It is that season again- season of school fires. A reported 25 schools have been razed after schools reopened barely four weeks ago.

This matter is not new. In 2016, students set on fire 100 schools. This matter boils down to basic indiscipline.

It  is disingenuous to demand that principals and teachers control students in schools, when society and the government give them no support for any stringent action. 

Indeed, burning of schools is at the extreme end of the indiscipline spectrum. Principals and teachers face indiscipline daily in schools, and they cannot expel such students.

Boy schools are the worst affected for obvious reasons. For biological reasons, boys are aggressive, and most likely to fall into circumstances that promote indiscipline like drug abuse. So, what the country has is a case of indiscipline gone badly awry.

The fires have occurred despite the Ministry of Education being led by two no-nonsense Cabinet Secretaries who are also academicians- Fred Matiang’i and George Magoha.

The measures being instituted refuse to recognise this as an indiscipline problem.

The government has announced that students who commit arson will have this in their records.

But, do the students care? The only thing that has a chance of reversing this trend, is the threat of immediate and harsh disciplinary actions. It means more aggressive measures must be instituted.

Actions must take place at three levels. The first is return of the cane, and prompt prosecution of perpetrators.

Currently, there are roundabout discussions about “counselling” indisciplined students.

These are politically correct narratives because people are afraid of pronouncing what everybody knows- the banning of the cane in schools robbed principals and teachers of the only deterrent they had, in maintaining discipline in schools.

Student arsonists and their facilitators should face prompt trials and jail terms which should be widely publicised in schools countrywide.

It is crazy that hardly any arsonist of the 2016 fires, have been made criminally liable for their actions. This is a strong message to others- you can do what you want.

The proposal by Magoha to start random screening for drug tests in schools sounds like the radical thinking required.

It should even go further- all students should take drug tests every new academic year.

School administrations can then keep close eye on those who fail the tests- a kind of red flag.

Comprehensive research

The second is regular consultations with students, and flexibility among school administrators.

This will enable school administrations to defuse the small tensions that sometimes blow up into major unrest, when they could have been nipped in the bud.

And thirdly, the government and  stakeholders must urgently undertake a comprehensive research into school fires.

Talk to students, teachers, principals, parents, the perpetrators and their friends, school workers and experts to get data to inform interventions.

This will not be an investigation for retribution purposes, but a baseline survey to generate data to inform programming and interventions.

Right now, all there is are wild speculations by all manner of “education experts.” 

Clearly, these experts have no clue what they are talking about if their ‘prescriptions’ three years ago were unable to current spate of fires.

There’s even been a wacky proposal to ban boarding schools and exams as a solution to school fires. Based on what research? The mind boggles!

School unrest is almost always started by a group of ring leaders who mostly come from privileged backgrounds and big towns- principally Nairobi- where they take bad habits borne of complete impunity and irresponsibility into schools.

Parents to these students will always use their money to have them escape responsibility for their actions.

That’s how a student conjures up and executes a plan to burn a school. Other students suffer as a result. 

School fires are a mammoth problem that the government and its stakeholders don’t want to confront.

That explains the current wringing of hands and twiddling of thumbs as London burns.

Pussyfooting around it this time as happened in 2016 will just create a fertile ground for the fire next time. [email protected]

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