Debate over abolishing boarding schools and reintroducing cane gains momentum
The reintroduction of the cane and the abolition of boarding schools are two proposals being considered by the government to combat student indiscipline.
These recommendations, however, have been met with opposition from some education stakeholders, who have called for a national dialogue to address issues affecting public schools.
Speaking on Monday at Kisii’s Egetonto Primary School, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha and his Interior counterpart Fred Matiang’i suggested that caning misbehaving students could be the solution to a recent spate of incidents in schools across the country, including arson attacks on some institutions.
However, the change can only be implemented by amending the law that prohibits it.
Some parents have welcomed the cane with caution, arguing that only trained teachers should be allowed to use a cane.
According to National Parents Association Chairman Nicholas Maiyo, teachers have previously abused the cane, resulting in injuries.
“We have said before that like in prisons, not everyone can administer the cane. We want a trained person to do it because teachers can be careless at times and may cause harm,” said Maiyo.
He also proposed allowing parents to cane their children if they cause trouble at school after pointing out the error. This is because parents are cautious when administering punishment.
The reintroduction of approved schools has also been welcomed by parents.
“We have no problem with their reintroduction because, in any case, it will only target errant students,” he said.
Dr. Matiang’i also stated that there needs to be a national conversation about parenting and child discipline, a suggestion that has been echoed by Mr Kahi Indimuli, the chairman of the Secondary School Heads Association.
“We need to bring all stakeholders on board to talk about the funding of schools, discipline, infrastructure, boarding as drugs as well substance abuse,” said Indimuli.
The national chairman of the Kenya Private Schools Association has called for proper public participation among stakeholders on suggestions to reintroduce caning in schools.
According to Charles Ochome, questions must be asked about why caning was removed in the first place and why it needs to be reinstated, as well as whether it will be a solution to the ongoing unrest in schools.
On Tuesday, Ochome spoke in Kisumu at a meeting of private school heads from both Nyanza and Western on the digitization of publication content.
He did note, however, that the reintroduction may or may not be beneficial, and that it was halted because some teachers were using violence.
However, when it came to arson, the chairman said it was sad and should not be encouraged, and that parents should be able to guide their children well.
Usawa’s executive director, Dr Emanuel Manyasa, chastised Education Ministry officials for failing to address school-related issues.
“They are failing to do simple things such as fixing schools management crisis and proposing to do the difficult ones such as reintroducing the cane.”
He claimed that there has never been evidence that caning improves discipline.
Manyasa explained that these fire incidents have persisted due to sophisticated and effective communication channels that allow students to engage among themselves.
He also rejected the idea of abolishing boarding schools.
“Most of the big schools are concentrated in the same region. If you make them day schools, does it mean children from other areas will never attend these schools?”
According to Manyasa, the value proposition of education for the child must be established.
However, Faith Nafula, a counselling psychologist, believes that closing boarding schools may be beneficial because children will be closer to their parents.
The calls for corporal punishment in schools come at a time when several schools across the country have been set on fire, with some students being detained by police.
Cabinet Secretary for Education George Magoha and his Interior counterpart Fred Matiang’i have both called for the reinstatement of corporal punishment in schools.
They blamed the increased indiscipline among students for the occurrence of school fires.
Magoha urged the relevant authorities to swiftly enact legislation restoring the cane to schools in order to combat lawlessness.
He stated that he was aware of human rights activists’ efforts to prevent the reintroduction of caning in schools.
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“Which human rights are there when these students are burning schools and destroying property? We cannot expect miracles from teachers when children are not being disciplined,” he said.
Caning, he claims, does not kill, contrary to popular belief among human rights activists.