Koech: drug use fanned school unrest

August 10, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, August 10 – Drug abuse in secondary schools may have been the main cause of the wave of unrest witnessed in secondary schools across the country last month, officials said.

Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Education David Koech told Capital News on Sunday that the use of drugs by students had been cited as a major problem in the various secondary schools the committee had visited.

“Everybody is saying drugs are all over and it has been easy for the students to access them since they are even sold at shops next to the institutions,” Koech informed.

National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende last month gave Koech’s Committee 21 days to investigate the school riots and hand in its report.

They have so far visited two schools in Central and Eastern province and four in the Rift Valley region.

At the height of the unrest, the National Coordinator for the State-run Anti-Drug campaign told Capital News that drugs alone were not to blame.

National Agency for Campaign against Drug Abuse Authority (NACADA) Board Chairman Dr Frank Njenga at the time said the cause of the unrest could be traced to factors at home, in schools and the community.

The House Committee however found that the post election violence had also contributed to the unrest in schools.

Other factors to blame for the more than 300 violent strikes that left one student dead at Upper Hill High School include: fear of mock examinations; weak institutional management; political and other influences; misuse of mobile phones; and child abuse.

On Friday, Committee members were shocked to hear students at a school in Naivasha blaming political leaders for the riots.

Students suggested that they had been inspired to champion for their rights by Members of Parliament protesting on the streets.

"From watching television, we have learnt that the only way to have your sentiments heard is through strikes and demonstrations like MPs do," a student said.

The Government in late July imposed tough rules aimed at putting a permanent stop to school riots and destruction of property.

Education minister Sam Ongeri banned the use of mobile phones in schools and ordered the removal of music systems and DVDs from school buses, among other measures.

He also directed schools to stop buying luxury buses with TVs and powerful music systems.

Koech advised parents to take time to counsel their children now that they are on holiday.

He said parents should clearly tell their children what they expect of them and children should know what their parents stand for.

“If they have never been close this is the time to better their relations, so that each parent understands their child.”

The Education Committee is this week expected to tour Nyanza province.

Koech informed that they would complete writing a report in September and table it before Parliament when it resumes in October.

Elsewhere, Human rights activist Lawrence Mute urged parents to take a keener interest in their children’s lives.

Mute, who is with the Kenya National Commission of Human Rights, explained that if parents spent more time with their children, it could reduce the frustrations that they have that are inadvertently blamed for the high school protests.

“We need to find a way of having discussions. Even where you are punishing a child as a parent, you need to explain to them why you are meting out punishment,” stressed the commissioner.

He underscored the need for the school curriculum to be revised.

“We need to look at our sole structure of schooling. In primary school, the dynamics between those private academies and public schooling,” Mute outlined.

Following the recent unrest, several students have been arrested and arraigned in various courts to face arson charges.


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