Revealed Forces Behind School Fires in Kenya
Failure to comply with safety requirements, the collapse of guidance and counselling programs, and society’s increased permissiveness are among the top reasons identified by education stakeholders for the ongoing unrest at schools that has resulted in huge property loss.
The causes provided for the current unrest and student issues are not wholly new, but they have not been addressed despite previous warnings.
Exam fear has often been linked to student unrest, but applicants will take their national examination in March and April of next year.
The sole new component is school congestion, which has been observed since the government implemented a 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary schools but failed to build facilities.
Teachers have found it more difficult to maintain discipline due to the congestion, according to the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association and the Kenya Union for Post-Primary Education Teachers.
However, Julius Jwan, the principal secretary for Basic Education, sees it as a larger societal issue.
Despite the fact that reports from prior investigations into school unrest continue to collect dust on shelves, the episodes appear to follow a pattern.
The Report of the Task Force on Student Discipline and Unrest in Secondary Schools (2001), chaired by then-Director of Education Naomy Wangai, contains some of the recommendations.
The most recent report is the Report on the Inquiry into the Wave of Student Unrest in Kenyan Secondary Schools in Term II, 2018.
The paper was drafted by the National Assembly’s Education and Research Committee, which was chaired by Julius Melly.
Limited professional guidance and counselling in schools, increased permissiveness and a laissez-faire approach in society, failure to address indiscipline among transferred learners, exam stress, promises of exam leakage, and a long second term are among the causes of students’ indiscipline, according to a parliamentary report released in 2019.
The committee also found a lack of communication between parents, teachers, and students, as well as excessive strictness at home and at school, and a lack of sufficient training for school administrators.
Every school should establish mentorship programs and boost guidance and counselling, according to the group.
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Non-teaching staff remuneration should be reviewed, according to the Ministry of Education.
The committee also suggested that the National Intelligence Service play a more active role in acquiring intelligence on student activities from schools.
However, student safety continues to be a difficult issue in schools. According to the Ministry of Education’s Safety Standards Manual for Schools (2008), there should be at least 1.2 metres between beds and two metres between corridors.
Dormitory doors should also be at least 5 feet wide and open outward, according to the manual. Furthermore, each dormitory should have doors on both ends and a middle emergency escape.
The manual specifies that “dormitory windows must be free of grills and easy to open outwards.”
Teachers should also conduct daily spot checks before students go to bed, according to the guidance report.
Moses Mbora, Kuppet Nairobi branch secretary, blamed the delinquency on the policy of 100% transition, claiming that it caused overcrowding in schools.
He went on to say that the crash program has put a lot of strain on students.
Haste to complete the syllabus
As a result of the rushed curriculum, he added, some teachers have taught more than the eight recommended lessons in order to finish the syllabus.
Some schools begin classes as early as 6 a.m., while others teach during night preparations. This type of educational schedule deprives pupils of any rest time.
Some schools also conduct exams in the morning and at night, which causes students to get depressed according to Mr Mbora.
He urged the Ministry of Education to reinstate co-curricular activities so that pupils can let off steam.
Mr Mbora also urged parents to stop spoiling their children and instead develop values and discipline in their children.
He also attributed school indiscipline to a dearth of role models in society and among authorities, particularly political ones.
According to some principals fires in schools should be thoroughly examined since some of them may have been sparked by spiteful people on school boards of management.
Many school administrations, according to the principals, have installed CCTV cameras in dorms, kitchens, and administration buildings to monitor student mobility.
Furthermore, the principals stated that pupils have resorted to anarchy when demanding things that they believe the school does not provide.
According to them, some of the pupils engaging in such activities lack moral principles because their parents do not provide adequate direction to their children.
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Dr. Jwan issued a directive to principals on Tuesday, instructing them to call meetings of their boards of management to examine student discipline and submit resolutions with the County Education Boards for action.
To guarantee proper security for schools, he added the boards should work closely with authorities from the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government.
The PS further warned that the ministry will not cover the costs of rebuilding schools that have been destroyed by arson.