NAIROBI, July 21 – Experts have blamed the latest spate of school unrest in the country 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, noted that the government had failed to address the real causes of the strikes and instead adopted quick fixes.
Mutie faulted the government for ignoring crucial recommendations which could have helped to avert the crisis.
“When students strike they have a reason and I think sometimes we are not keen to find out why. We have ready answers even before we find out what is happening,” Mutie said.
“We need a very radical approach to our issues; sometimes I even get surprised why we even think of a task force because whatever we are going to come up with is lying in another recommendation somewhere,” he added.
The University of Nairobi Lecturer also faulted the school administration for turning a blind eye on warning signs of unrest.
On her part, 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.
“For you to strike and burn property because of exams, there must be some other underlying causes, we need to urgently go on the ground and find out,” she asserted.
The unrests have been perennial especially during the months of June and July, the period of the Mock exams. Last month alone the country recorded close to 300 strikes. Within the last 48 hours 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, meals for prefects and lack of entertainment.
Mutie however noted that we could just be looking at the symptoms and missing the underlying issues. He alluded to the fact that the mess in the school is a replica of the problems within the larger society.
“There is still a lot of injustice in this country; there is a lot of poverty. And therefore so many people are very anxious about many things and whatever is going on within the family affects children and then affects schools,” he stated.
The Sociologist noted that it is imperative for the government to focus more on sorting the mess in the wider society.
On the other hand Wachira noted that the increase in the democratic space dictates that the schools engage the students in more dialogue.
“Children now know that you cannot just impose things on them because they have rights; if we have brought them to that level why are we expecting that they won’t have that democratic space?” she inquired.
The education consultant advised that mainstreaming of guidance and counseling could help in dealing with deep-rooted issues. She stressed the need for open dialogue and consistent communication with the students.
Wachira added that the government needs to strengthen guidance and counseling in schools besides evaluating the punitive procedures in the institutions.
“Peer education helps because peers are able to tell the administration that the students are not happy with this and this. But then it requires a supportive environment from the administration to act on what the peers are able to sense,” she noted.
The government is currently working on modalities of introducing training of Life Skills in schools.
Other suggestions that have been floated include abolishment of the exam based evaluation system which is said to be exerting undue pressure on the students and a more aggressive approach in dealing with the issue of drug abuse which is rampant in many schools.