NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 27 – Whereas burning of school property looks like the newest subject trending in the country, thousands of other schools are going on with their normal learning.
Kenya has about 8,000 high schools and about 100 of them have been affected by the latest trail of fires that have so far seen more than 200 students and teachers arrested.
The sad events have exposed some of them to the bitter side of the law with 13 of them remanded at the Kamiti Maximum Prison.
As the country continues to witness the sad and regrettable events, one wonders if only the 100 plus schools out of the 8,000 have problems.
Capital FM News visited Starehe Boys Centre to find out why they have not thought of ‘catching’ the wave of burning schools.
Starehe is one of the top schools in the country known for its outstanding performance in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examinations.
Right from the gate, we observed high levels of discipline and respect that cut across right from the subordinate staff – the watchman to the administration.
The watchman directed us to the administration block even though we had not booked an appointment.
As we walked inside the school, everything was tidy – the lawns were neat and the compound was visibly clean.
It was quiet as form fours were in class sitting for their mock examination and the rest of the school was going on with usual learning.
As explained by Matthew Kithyaka, the director of the school, humbleness and respect are core principles that every student and staff was expected to practice.
“We have had a heritage of training young people in a very humble way that engages them to do things for themselves knowing they are responsible for themselves and for others in the communities. That same practice of thinking and attitude is also extended to the staff,” he explained.
We had already noticed that everyone we met welcomed us even though they didn’t know who we were.
As we watched the students half walking or half running during lunch hour, we could not stop admiring their sense of time and organisation.
This, Kithyaka explained was a culture he never understood but appreciated.
The secret of discipline exhibited by the students lay in the warm relationship between students and teachers.
According to Kithyaka, Starehe harbors about 1,000 students from all the 47 counties.
Some of them come from backgrounds of strife while others are middle class and high class.
But at Starehe, the unifying factors are the values the school stands for and strives to manage from the moment the students set their foot to the school.
“All young people wherever they come from share similar experiences passions and problems but how to manage them differs from one institution to another. At Starehe, we train our young people to be responsible.”
“We use a rule that says ‘use your common sense to see what you are doing is right or what you are doing is wrong’ and out of that we ask all the students to embrace an attitude of care and to have a good identity and belong to a family called Starehe,” he added.
This Kithyaka explained was team work by ensuring channels of communication among students and between teachers were left open.
One of the strategies employed by the school is the house system.
Starehe has 13 houses – each with 80 students controlled by house prefects, captains and house masters who are adults.
“Every evening at six pm, they sit in the house system do a roll call then review their relationship in that house and if there is any problem it is reported upwards until it reaches the house master and it goes up to the head of students welfare at the level of principal and if it is extreme it is taken up to the level of the director.”
Teachers’ director’s, staff’s houses and students’ houses are mixed across the compound, an arrangement that supports close interaction with the students and also strengthens the bond of the Starehe family.
“Outside the classroom is where we can build that relationship and confidence both ways and that is one of the key things Starehe believes in building trust between the boys, the staff and other members of staff,” Kithyaka explained.
The school which will be marking its 57th anniversary on Saturday has light forms of punishment depending on mistakes done.
They have the commonest On Spot (gymnastics) and community labour which can be in the form of cleaning for grave mistakes.
“The idea is not to punish or to make you feel bad – to make you feel physically hurt but the idea is to tell you – please remember what you did is wrong – please remember you are accountable to your deeds.”
Kithyaka called on people entrusted with the duty of teaching or taking care of students to diligently and responsibly empower young people and offer them guidance not only academically but to mentor them to grow as responsible citizens.
“As adults we tend to forget that young people will be given good guidance if they learn from us the good things that bring responsibility and the best thing is to have more adults spending more time with young people in school and remember out of 12 months, 9 months of the year are spent in school with their teachers and other staff and those are the moments we should be all be able to sacrifice, to input a lot positive interaction mentorship and accountability so that these young people can also pick from us.”
Opening channels of communication and giving hope to students, Kithyaka explained can help reduce the number of problems facing schools.