NAIROBI, July 22 – The Government on Tuesday banned the use of mobile phones and music systems by students, in what it termed as immediate measures to address the spiralling wave of unrest in secondary schools.
Education Minister Sam Ongeri told Parliament that use of the gadgets was among the factors that had contributed to the increasing student riots.
He told Members of Parliament (MPs) that experts at the Ministry of Education had established fear of mock examinations and institutional management weaknesses as other reasons.
Others were political and external causes as well as drug and substance abuse by students.
Ongeri ordered for legal action against students who participated in the recent school unrest.
“I have directed the Boards of Governors (BOGs) of schools concerned to screen all students and identify those who engaged in destruction and hand over the list to the police for investigations,” he asserted.
While delivering his statement, Ongeri directed that those found to have taken part in the strikes be suspended indefinitely.
Ongeri further instructed the affected schools to prepare a comprehensive report and file it with the Ministry for further direction.
“Once the students get high with drugs they are no longer in control of their instincts,” the Minister alluded.
Noting that the provinces affected by the unrest were also at the centre of the post election violence, he partly attributed the crisis to psychological effects of the skirmishes.
As a way forward Ongeri also ordered for the elimination of school buses fitted with music systems and DVD players as well as banned the use of mobile phones in schools.
His report was however highly criticised by some legislators who claimed that it had failed to come up with concrete solutions.
“Can he tell us whether the lack of play time for children has contributed in this?” Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto questioned.
“Mr Speaker, I have noticed that he left out the role of the Ministry of Education including the complete failure of the inspectorate system,” Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara voiced.
In light of this House Speaker Kenneth Marende directed the Parliamentary Committee on Education to undertake an independent inquiry into the matter and table a comprehensive report within 21 days.
Immediately after the statement five women MPs held a press conference and rubbished Ongeri’s assertions.
Nominated MP Sofia Abdi Omar said the government had failed to take action to address the real issues.
“We are not given new information. The ministry has always been giving reactive solutions. The Minister was talking about drugs and those are not new things, we have always heard of them, but why have they never taken any action,” she asked.
Nominated MP Rachael Shebesh also condemned Ongeri’s decision to handover the list of students involved in the unrest to police, saying that was far from ending the unrest.
She said: “We are wondering whether kicking students involved in the unrests is the solution and we are wondering if that is how the Minister intends to deal with the crisis.”
Nominated MP Amina Abdalla also dismissed most of the reasons given by the Minister saying extensive investigations including disciplinary action taken in schools should be looked at to check how teachers relate and deal with students.
She also nodded to a review of the syllabus to ensure it matches with the fast changing times in governance, society and in the economy.
Ongeri had singled out political interference and school mismanagement as other causes of the chaos. And in a bid to deal with this, the Minister informed Parliament that the Kenya Institute of Education would be rolling out a training program for school management boards to build their capacity.
Ministry, he added would soon launch a safety manual alongside a Peace Education Manual that would help promote good values and characters in schools.
However the thorny issue of the cane was missing in his list of measures.
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.
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.