Mentoring key to reducing student indiscipline

The recent spate of incidences where students have gone on the rampage and destroyed school property has once again drawn sharp focus on managing such indiscipline.

Regrettably this seems to be a trend towards the end of 2nd term as schools prepare for the defining 3rd term. The most glaring case was when, no sooner had the Cabinet Secretary for Education Dr Fred Matiang’i left Nyamache in Kisii County, than the students of Naikuru Mixed Day and Boarding School set fire to one of the institution’s buildings.

Various commentators have weighed in on this discussion trying to unravel this unprecedented behavior. Granted, it is not the first time that students have been engaged in such arsonist attacks and some previous ones have been disastrous.

While recommendations have been made and measures instituted to mitigate student unrest in school, it is apparent that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to rein in their indiscipline.

One of the ways I see bringing tangible impact is the ongoing series of mentoring sessions that a number of institutions and individuals are carrying out countrywide particularly among high school students.

Studies show that mentors help students navigate institutional bureaucracies, attain legitimacy, build social capital, enhance students’ academic skills and promote positive attitudes toward education.

Students with mentors achieve higher grades, graduate at higher rates, and are more likely to transition to higher education.

While these mentoring sessions were initially conceived to steer the male students to the right career path and instill in them a higher level of self-confidence, it is clear that they will also shape the students’ discipline and therefore behavior that ultimately reduces or completely eliminates unruliness.

Mentoring involves individuals, some of whom are alumni of these schools and may or may not be in professional careers or even in enterprise finding time every so often to spend time with the students to share experiences, lessons on life and help them transition from teenage to adulthood.

Several companies, including CIC have partnered with the Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF) in an initiative dubbed Mentenda that targets to mentor boys from forms one to four over the next five years. It is an in-school program that is linked to the discipline of at-risk-youth.

Mentors meet with students in a controlled school environment to discuss issues the students are facing and provide guidance. Some boys reach a crossroad while they are in school particularly when faced with a decision of doing what is right or what is wrong. If for whatever reason they make the wrong decision, and follow that up with another bad decision, it can negatively impact the rest of their lives.

Each week, male staff members from these firms team up with trained and volunteer male mentors who are professionals from various fields to spend four hours speaking to the boys, sharing testimonies, engaging in a structured career path shaping discussion and conducting high octane motivational sessions.

This countrywide mentoring program is designed to help bring the boy child to the same level of the girl child that is now seen as gaining an upper hand over following decades of special focus.

The male mentors participating in the mentoring program are training the boys in extracurricular thinking and are effectively their role models. They want to inspire the society to move from inertness to action on the pressing challenges facing the boy child in Kenya.

It behoves men to take action in a transformative mentorship and role modelling to nurture and mentor boys between the ages 14 to 25 years to become confident and responsible men while unlocking their potential to become leaders in their spaces of influence.

A casual observation of the schools with active mentoring programs, reveals that they do not suffer rampant student unrest. Which is probably a pointer to the need for greater public and private sector male players to set up active mentoring programs in partnership with the teachers. This presence of outsiders who come with a positive outlook about life and share lessons and experiences that the students would otherwise not obtain in a formal learning environment will definitely serve to shape their perceptions and positively influence their behavior.

Mentors provide the boost that students need to fully develop their potential. But students do not have equal access to mentors: a mentoring gap exists. Just as students are differently situated with respect to financial resources, educational opportunities, and academic performance, they are differently situated with regard to the ability to build a support network. This why there must be a deliberate effort by parents, alumni, the county government, public and private institutions to save the children from themselves.

Ultimately, the mentoring initiatives will see young men become men of honor who recognize and unlock their potential of being leaders in their areas of influence while displaying confidence, responsibility and a renewed sense of giving back just as their mentors have done.

(The writer is a mentor and the Group General Manager for Marketing and Distribution at CIC Group)

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