Principals held at ransom by some rogue students who insist on having their way
On Sunday night, a scene all too familiar now unfolded at Ikuu Boys Secondary School in Tharaka-Nithi County.
Students at the school became agitated and chased away the principal, Joseph Mbae, as well as some teachers and security guards who attempted to calm them down.
Their complaint was that prefects were given too much power, were too strict, were given authority to punish them, and the administration believed everything they reported.
Mr Mbae requested assistance from the police in putting an end to the rampage.
He drove to the station to pick them up when they were delayed, but by the time they arrived at the school, four dormitories had gone up in flames.
The students walked out of school and went home the next morning.
A troubling trend is emerging in schools, in which students are increasingly seizing control from authorities and dictating how schools are run, including deciding whether to stay or go home.
Many principals have been held hostage at one time or another by rogue students who insist on having their way, failing which they cause massive damage to school property.
Learners from various schools have recently forced the administration to accede to their demands on issues such as the school timetable, entertainment, diet, teacher transfer, calendar, and even when or whether to sit examinations.
Principals who have been caught between acquiescing to the demands of their students and maintaining order and discipline have had sleepless nights, despite the fact that stakeholders in education have given various reasons and proposed various solutions.
Students at Milo Boys Secondary School in Bungoma County forced the administration to hold the end-of-term exams on Saturday, ahead of schedule, so that the school could close early.
Despite the new plan, they refused to take the exams and returned home on Sunday.
Masaku Muiya, the principal of Upper Hill School in Nairobi County, was forced to release some students last week after they demanded to begin their holiday earlier.
Students from a number of schools in Nyeri County have demanded to be allowed to return home, while others have simply walked out of the institutions.
Students at Kangubiri Girls’ High School walked out after destroying the school food store, whereas students at Kihatha, Dedan Kimathi High School, and Dr Kamundia Girls Secondary School were released after they demanded to go home.
Parents were informed during a virtual meeting for Utumishi Academy in Nakuru County that students are now using the parents association to air their grievances.
They stated that they would not take the exams as scheduled, that they would not eat githeri, and that the entertainment should be moved from Saturday afternoon to Saturday night.
The boys also requested that no assignments be assigned to them during the Christmas break so that they could relax.
According to the principal of a school in Samburu County, the student’s behaviour has changed since last week, and many of them are reluctant to attend classes.
The principal, on the other hand, insisted that, despite the fact that the students had completed their exams, the school would close as scheduled the following week.
Learners at Lubinu Boys Secondary School in Kakamega County forced the administration to release them early for half term. Johannes Weta, a board member, stated that the students had requested to be sent home to pay their school fees.
He stated that some students had complained about the quality of meals and demanded to be served meat four times a week through the school’s complaint boxes.
After Form Four students went on the rampage during examinations last week, students at Ototo Secondary School in Ndhiwa Sub-county were told to go home, and the school was closed indefinitely.
They became agitated and stormed out of the classroom, leaving the exam papers behind. They carried on causing damage that had begun the night before.
Tensions had begun to rise the day before when a group of students allegedly banded together to protect a colleague from being punished by a teacher.
The student refused to go to the office where he had been summoned, instead of leaving the school and going home.
Moshe Musyoka, vice chairman of the Igembe Central Sub-county Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association, said the recent delocalization of principals policy and smuggled mobile phones have contributed to the spate of unrest in schools.
He claims Instead of managing pressure within the school, principals manage pressure from outside, resulting in a gap in administration.
When one school faces a challenge, it communicates quickly with other schools. As a result, many national schools are experiencing these issues.
An educationist, Dr Wanjohi Githinji, blamed everyone, from the Ministry of Education to the parents, whom he accused of abdicating their responsibilities to school administrations.
Wanjohi maintains that the school administrations lack control as well, and when they try, the students threaten to cause chaos and destroy school property, forcing them to give in to their demands.