February 25th 2018

Society / Education

Committee investigating school strikes waiting for KCSE before giving its report

A source in the committee said the extension was necessitated by their need to review the connection between indiscipline and examination leakage, for which they needed to wait until the KCSE exams start mid next month.

By Beth Karuana Mwaimwaikaruana@gmail.comThursday, 22 Sep 2016 17:23 EAT

The Special Investigations Committee probing the rampant burning of schools by students last term has has had its tenure extended by another six weeks ostensibly to allow it establish a connection between the strikes and national examinations.

The team that was appointed in July, at the peak of arson in schools, asked the cabinet secretary for education, Fred Matiangi, for an extension of its mandate to enable it analyse massive data it has gathered on the issue. The Kenya Free Press can authoritatively report that the team has received credible leads indicating a connection between exam leakage and the strikes that swept the country last term.

A source in the committee told the Kenya Free Press that the extension was necessitated by their need to review the connection between indiscipline and examination leakage, for which they needed to wait until the KCSE exams start mid next month.

Mr Matiangi met with the members yesterday and announced the extension. The committee was initially slated to table its findings tomorrow Friday September 23. Unrest in secondary schools became the order of the day last term, with more than 100 schools affected.

The media was awash with disturbing news of students’ strikes with school arson incidents hitting the headlines every day.Migori Boys closed indefinitely after students riot’, ‘Students demand 2016 KCSE leakage and are ready to pay! `Bungoma school closed after students vent anger on posho mill’, `Sossion explains why 15 schools were set ablaze in 2 weeks" were some of the headlines.

In its investigations, we can authoritatively reveal, the committee established weaknesses in the administration of key schools including a top boys' school in Baringo County, a girls school in Murang'a and several schools in Kisii.

However, it is the link between the arson and examination leakage that took the committee's interest, in particular because Mr Matiangi also wants to get to the bottom of the matter. For this, information from a top boys' school in Kisumu County, where students demanded that their principal raise money from their parents for the 'purchase' of examination leakage, was very helpful.

The team comprises of Mrs Omolo (the secretary of administration in the Office of the President), Assistant inspector General of Police Lilian Muli, Assistant Inspector General of Police for Criminal Investigations Patrick Mugo, Senior Assistant Director of Education Charles Khayira, Senior Assistant Director of Education James Kairu, Senior Deputy Director in the Teachers Service Commission Loise Nyasenda, Educationist Gracie K. Mullei and Lt. Col. (Rtd) F.C. Mugambi.

"The committee has got leads into how examination leakage travels. Wait for our report," a source at the committee said on condition on anonymity. According to the source, the committee that has worked mostly away from the media began its work by raising basic questions. What is happening in schools that we don't know? Are the students being incited as some stakeholders had alleged?

Ordinarily, the everyday student should be mostly passive; listen and do what they are told without question. In most cases they only question the learning taking place. What was puzzling is how suddenly several school structures were reduced to ashes.

How teenagers can easily destroy property worth millions and reduce school facilities into shells with little remorse was quite incomprehensible. Even more puzzling was the scale in which it happened and the escalation as stakeholders grappled with the solutions.

Where is the morality of students? Yes, school strikes are not a new phenomenon in Kenya. As a matter of fact student protests have been a major challenge facing education sector but this wave is one of its kind. It has spread to private schools and the excuse students have for it do not make sense!

Who burns a building worth millions to ‘exorcise ghosts’! Students of Gikiiro Mixed Secondary School in Mbeere South burned down two dorms starting off with the boys’ dormitory before turning on the girls’ dorm to do just that, exorcism!

In addition, Onjiko Boys High School students in Ahero, Kisumu County, went on strike and destroyed property after their attempt to have the school administration aide them get exam leakage to the 2016 KCSE failed. The students wanted the school fees to be increased to carter for cost of the exam leakage!

The madness became a distressing situation with more than 25 schools closed indefinitely before the end of second term. The schools closed include Ole Tipis Girls, Olpukoti, Olchoro, Maasai Girls and Narok Boys in Narok County. In Kiambu County, Kijabe Boys, Gatamaiyu High School and Stephjoy have been closed. Thomas Fisher in Kajiado is also affected.

According to experts, most students blame the school administration for the strikes, by failing to establish effective communication channels. In many cases headteachers are dictatorial using decrees to run schools while students are supposed to be passive recipients of these decrees. This in many ways has acted as an obstacle in conflicts resolution leading to unrest.

Drug abuse and addiction is a common problem in both boarding and day schools mainly in boys’ schools. Drugs, cigarettes, alcohol and mobile phones always find their way into the school premises and few weeks into the term, traces can be seen within school compounds, yet no one troubles themselves to find how they were sneaked in.

Lack of effective guidance and counseling services is also singled out as a major cause of strikes. These services are usually offered only during a crisis. Teachers are usually too busy trying to cover the syllabuses, writing schemes of work and every day plans leaving them with little time.

Some stakeholders in the education sector blamed changes to the school calendar and elimination of prayer and visiting days during third term for the fires.

While instilling values of integrity, ethics, moral, leadership, spiritual awakening, tolerance and entrepreneurship is key in improving discipline, a morale holistic approach should be adopted to mitigate social evils damaging secondary schools.

Let us be more involved with our children as parents as teachers create and enforce a school wide discipline plan. Practicing an effective follow through providing alternative education opportunities by government will go a long way in stemming this vice.

The writer is a student of journalism studies at the Technical University of Kenya currently on internship at the Kenya Free Press.

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