Threatening teenagers won’t cut it; what we need is an education system that humanizes students

Posted by on 12th July 2018

Categories:   Uncategorized

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) has taken to twitter to threaten students who engage in “criminal act” of dire consequences. In a tweet with pictures of students on strike; the DCI warned all students from Primary, Secondary to tertiary institutions that they are, “archiving & profiling every criminal act & consolidating charges that may be preferred to each & every student involved in any crime” complete with the hashtag #IFIKIEMASTUDE.

You know we have lost our way as a nation when we start using institutions that nub criminals to threaten children.

This is not the first time we are having a wave of student unrest leading to lose of property and in isolated incidents-loss of lives. In fact, in the 10th Parliament, former Central Imenti MP, Gitobu Imanyara rose on a point of order to seek a ministerial statement on countrywide unrest in secondary schools to which the then Minister for Education, Prof. Sam Ongeri responded that he will give a full report but that it was common during the mock exams period.

It’s interesting that this response was given in July, 2008; exactly 10 years ago and remains the standard response by government to date. The idea here is that the students are the problem.

In a journal article titled, Hypotheses of Student Unrest, the late Seymour L. Halleck, M.D. (Sy) says “…we must listen to what young people are saying not just how they are saying it.” What the government through the ministry of Education and the DCI are doing is listening only at how these students are expressing themselves but not what they are saying.

And a preliminary report by the Ministry of Education in June 2016 captured some of the stuff the students are saying, except for some odd reasons, they don’t act on it. The report explained the unrest was as a result of among other things poor leadership by the schools, unrealistic rules, poor communication skills by schools administrators and incompetence among senior Ministry of Education field officers.

Furthermore, in the last Parliament, Kathiani MP Robert Mbui, while debating the motion on delayed compensation of victims of Kyanguli Secondary school, said, “investigations into the incident revealed…whereas the capacity of the ill-fated dormitory was 96 students, the school administration had congested it with 139 students at the time of the inferno, thereby increasing the casualties.”

And this is the situation in nearly all public schools. It’s not just overcrowding. Fires and more recently, rape cases revealed the sorry state students are coping with in public schools. Considering the ministry 2016 report showing poor communication between students and teachers over grievances. It’s suffices to argue the strikes or unrest are as a result of students seeking ways to communicate their grievances.

In fact the 12th Parliament debated the need to have water in public institutions, some of the MPs noting a number of students have to walk many kilometers every morning to fetch water for bathing. And while we commend Matayos MP Makokha Odanga for his motion to have Chaplains deployed in learning institutions, the problem is less spiritual and more social.

DCI as an institution dealing in criminology would do well to learn from psychologists who’ve authored widely on crime and dealing with crime. Threatening teenagers that you will mess their future over present crimes never makes them responsible citizens.

In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. speaks of just and unjust laws. He argues, “Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.” Let me proceed to add that considering the conditions and rules by which our students learn, it is not far-fetched to conclude that our public education system is unjust. Indeed, any education system that degrades the student’s personality is an unjust system.