August 9, 2016 Lone Felix

RETRAIN TEACHERS AND ORGANIZE STUDENT LEADERSHIP TO CURB ARSON AND DESTRUCTION.

I do not believe that there is a single all-encompassing explanation as to why the fire is razing down schools. One thing however is true; this is an indictment of the conflict resolution mechanisms within the education sector. While times have changed greatly, the relationship between students and authority in schools and institutions of higher learning scarcely reflect the changing times.

About two weeks ago, I was speaking to a group of teachers in Kangemi Nairobi. The school caters for underprivileged children from the informal settlement around the area. A teacher asked me a question about how they could maintain discipline with corporal punishment having been outlawed.  And as fires razed across schools, arguments on reinstatement of canes have become popular.

This are faulty arguments. The students in schools today are not going to live in a world where you live fearing the sanction of law. Theirs is an extremely free world, where the law is meant to facilitate the utmost enjoyment of personal freedoms. School must prepare people for the world they will live in, and since that world is freer and more expressive, our best bet is to nurture children to understand the responsibility within which freedom must be rooted, as opposed to making them fear the consequences of being on the wrong.

The spate of fires across the country in secondary Schools is not unique or distinct. It mirrors for example, with perfect semblance the notoriety with which university students have gone on rampage in the last two to three years. According to the CS Education, since 2007 there are 300 reported cases. On Higher Education fronts, practically all Public Universities have been on a demonstration with fires and destruction characterizing the approach.

I do not believe that there is a single all-encompassing explanation as to why the fire is razing down schools. One thing however is true; this is an indictment of the conflict resolution mechanisms within the education sector. While times have changed greatly, the relationship between students and authority in schools and institutions of higher learning scarcely reflect the changing times.

The mechanism of resolving conflicts in high schools and Universities do not go beyond the individual institution. This means, where students fail to agree with a particular administration, the next option is destruction, because there is no possibility for a third voice to arbitrate the dispute.

I impressed upon Professor Jacob Kaimenyi, then as CS Education, on the need to structure a national Student Council, defined under the law, for both High Schools and Universities, with a greater urgency, at the universities level. Many efforts went into this, but it became captive of extreme political interests, individual greed and power struggles. To avoid creating an alternative Council for example, the structure of the National Youth Council can be redefined to provide for membership and representation of high school and university students.

This is necessary. We have structured Teachers unions in KNUT and KUPPET for Secondary Schools, UASU, for universities on one hand, and the Government on the other hand, but the actual subjects of most conflicts are not organized in single legitimate voice respected by all students at the national level.

This model exists in many nations; a perfect example is Israel, where the high school student’s council has been instrumental in breaking impasse between government and teachers’ unions. Canada has a national Student leaders Association that provides mentorship to its members on how to resolve conflicts and inducts them into a network of older mentors who walk with them for a year or so they are in office.

The second aspect is to retrain teachers and enable them to handle the emerging realities in a better way. There are behavioral realities within the millennials that require active and deliberate retraining to the tutors.  Across many countries as times change and old industries fade and new jobs and challenges emerge, programs for retraining are always a great tool. This makes the workforce to adapt to new realities.

The reasons for conflicts in institutions of learning will be diverse as the number of Students we have, our bet, must be as much on strengthening capacity to resolve conflicts and identifying momentary reasons why conflicts emerge.