Why are Kenyans schools burning? Veteran educationists say dialogue the only way out
Bad education policies and high level of corruption is undoubtedly the major cause of education crisis involving torching of schools.
Academic experts blame the Ministry of Education Science and Technology for having made a very big blunder by making abrupt changes in the country’s education system without seeking the input of education stakeholders for a way forward.
A case in point is the recent decision of Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to change the term dates without giving a second thought to the fact that the move would drastically interfere with the completion of the syllabus.
This would hence burden both the teacher and student with the latter’s brain losing proper direction.
The blind emulation of foreign policies by the ministry has impacted negatively on Kenya’s education structure.
The law changed with the introduction of free primary education under the National Rainbow Coalition that opened the door to scores of children who would otherwise have been locked out due to lack of school fees.
This eventually led to overcrowding of classrooms with each teacher being forced to handle between 70 and 80 pupils on average in public schools.
This move has made it extremely difficult for the teachers to attend to the individual academic needs of the pupils. It has also led to underperformance hence half-baked knowledge among learners.
There is urgent need on the part of the Ministry of Education Science and Technology to consider lifting the ban on corporal punishment in schools with an aim of instilling discipline and bringing errant students back on the right track.
The ban on corporal punishment in schools and the Children Act has led to indiscipline both at school and home to an extent that the children have become rude to teachers and parents simply because they are confident that they are untouchable as the law protects them.
Another major cause of indiscipline among students is moral decay in the society.
Raphael Onyiego, a senior teacher at St Peter’s Ruambwa Primary School in Bunyala Sub-County, Busia County attributes rampant indiscipline that has spilled into secondary schools across the country to failure on the part of parents to play their guidance and counselling role at home and have instead left the duty for the teachers.
Onyiego recalls with nostalgia that African traditions were full of moral values and virtues. It was the role of the entire community to instil discipline to all children.
Children were expected not to listen to the conversation of their parents or sit where elderly people seated.
Parents were role models in the society and children were expected to respect all older persons at all times contrary to today’s culture where children are owned by individual parents who in turn have terribly failed to inculcate good moral values and virtues.
Politicians have also displayed great lack of goodwill to inculcate or implement laws that promote respect or morals in the society.
The legislation passed by parliamentarians have also made teachers to remain powerless to an extent that the learners are fully aware of what they can do and that which they cannot do.
The teachers on the other hand have also left the role of inculcating discipline and mentoring, standing at bay because their hands are tied.
The media has also contributed a great deal to moral decay that is deeply rooted in society because most negative values are emphasized by the press.
Onyiego suggest that we should go back to our African traditions that are inculcated in moral values. “Although the world is dynamic but African moral values are the best,” says Onyiego.
According to Onyiego teachers and parents should be role models with the latter treating their children with dignity by instilling good moral values. “They should not treat them like local chicken that is chased out of the house in the morning and comes back in the evening,” Onyiego advices. He urges: “The community at large should take the responsibility over all the children in the society.”
Even though Children’s Act is championing the rights of the children, extreme freedom should be curtailed because rights have limitations and it is evident that the so-called ‘Children Rights’ have actually contributed to the destruction of the society. “This children’s rights issue should be controlled,” says Onyiego.
In order to attain good grades, Onyiego suggests, the Government should consider reducing the current high number of subjects so that the students can be able to concentrate and specialize on the subjects of their choice.
He also blames failure on the part of the Ministry of Education and Teachers Service Commission to post more teachers to both primary and secondary schools across the country on the underperformance that Kenya is experiencing.
“A decade ago, even a class three pupil could, with confidence, speak and write fluent English, but today, it is regrettable to note that the pupils of classes two and three can neither speak, read nor write as a result of bad education policies and inappropriate curriculum development procedures,” says Onyiego.
He notes that this has been a cause for concern to parents whose dream is to see their children scaling the heights of academic excellence for a better tomorrow.
“There is, therefore, a likelihood of parents being tempted to engage in exam cheating that has been widely claimed to be linked to the current crisis in schools in order to buy good grades for their children,” notes Onyiego.
The stiff measures the Ministry of Education has taken aimed at curbing exam cheating has also indisputably drawn the wrath of the students who after allegedly realizing that all the loopholes have been sealed have now resorted to the torching of their schools in anger.
Onyiego notes that the decision by the Education Cabinet Secretary to change school term dates so as to prevent students from causing further damage to learning institutions is not actually the solution.
Saving education sector
Denis Osodo, a retired teacher with over 30 years’ experience, currently teaching at Seed of Abraham Academy in Ruambwa, Bunyala Sub-County says the Ministry of Education should consider seeking the input of education stakeholders in decision making process so as to resolve the problem.
Osodo says rising drug and substance abuse by students has also contributed significantly to indiscipline. He notes there is urgent need on the part of education stakeholders to undertake a marathon sensitization and mentoring of the students.
“Refusal by the government to implement the teachers’ salary increment has instead killed the students’ and teachers’ morale with majority of them seeking ways of finding greener pastures elsewhere,” notes Osodo.