Strikes: Ongeri addresses Parliament

July 22, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, July 22 – The government was on Tuesday afternoon expected to outline crucial measures it would take to avert an apparent crisis in the education sector following an upsurge in school unrest around the country.
Addressing journalists in his office on Tuesday morning, Education Minister Sam Ongeri said that he had petitioned the House Speaker Kenneth Marende to allow him to issue the statement, which had earlier been scheduled for Wednesday due to the urgency of the matter.
The Minister alluded: “In order to put this matter to rest and work on measures that we must roll out to contain this situation I spoke with the Speaker yesterday (Monday) and I will be issuing the statement this afternoon so that I free myself from parliamentary obligations.”
Ongeri however insisted that the students must show some responsibility in the way they conduct themselves.
“We cannot afford careless actions; we cannot afford a carefree attitude. If we don’t have discipline in our schools, life will be chaotic. It is the underpinning word in everything we do,” the Minister asserted.
His comments came as more schools were reported to have gone on the rampage. St. George’s School, Kayole Secondary and Kasarani Secondary Schools went on strike on Tuesday morning.
Ongeri further dismissed media reports that he had formed a taskforce into the matter. He clarified that he and other ministry officials had spent the last 48 hours locked up in meetings to evaluate the situation and come up with the resolutions he was to table in Parliament.
A source who spoke to Capital News disclosed that the ‘Minister’s Committee’ had keenly evaluated recommendations of previous taskforces on the issue and sought to identify key proposals that had not been implemented.
“We did not see the need for another committee. We have looked at what has not been implemented,” the source revealed.
Experts have blamed the school unrest on the failure by the government to implement recommendations of previous task forces that probed similar incidents.

Speaking to Capital News on Monday, a sociologist Dr Pius Mutie, faulted the government for failing to address the real causes of the strikes and instead adopting quick fixes.
The unrest has escalated in the months of June and July, the period of the mock examinations. Last month alone the country recorded close to 300 strikes. Within the last three days more than 20 schools have been closed countrywide.

Though triggered by the mock examinations, the Executive Director of Life Skills Promoters, a Non Governmental Organisation working within schools, Emma Wachira, noted that the strikes could possibly be a way by the students to express their displeasure.

The students have raised various reasons ranging from bad food, difficult exams, harsh punishment and double standards in responsibility.

Other complaints include lack of school canteens, special uniforms and meals for prefects, closure of school canteens and lack of entertainment.
Some stakeholders have blamed deteriorated levels of discipline in the institutions and the widened democratic space given to the students for the unrest. With the introduction of free education, which pushed up enrolment, the teacher:student ratio is too high for the educators to afford personalised attention.
On the other hand the government abolished the use of the cane in line with human rights concerns. Many Kenyans are however pushing for its re-introduction noting that it is a crucial deterrent to indiscipline. At his office Tuesday, Ongeri hinted that the cane might be part of the measures.
“Did you face the cane?” he asked a number of people in the boardroom.
Parents have been on the receiving end for abdicating their role of helping inculcate values and discipline in their children. With changing lifestyles in the country the professional parent has little time, if any, with their children.
Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Committee on Education has criticised the Minister for apparent laxity in handling the matter.

Speaking to Capital News on Tuesday Chairman David Koech said they would be keen to listen to the Minister when he gives his statement in Parliament.


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