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Indiscipline in schools: Parents only reaping what they sowed

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By MAGESHA NGWIRI
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Lack of discipline in schools neither started with Ambira Boys, nor will it end with whatever punishment the eight louts, who grossly abused two Cabinet secretaries, receive after more than a week in police and prison custody.

Indeed, indiscipline in institutions of learning, right from kindergarten to university, has a rich history and, as any teacher will attest, there will never come a time when corrective action will be unnecessary.

Schools are a microcosm of society, and society will always require policing. In fact, crime and punishment are inevitable for, however benign the laws may be, there will always be people who will break them.

Some will do so as a form of rebellion against injustice, others through sheer stupidity, while a vast majority will deliberately ignore the law because they want to benefit themselves or because they are simply anti-social.

That is why there will be bullies, thieves, rapists, murderers, and other miscreants in society who will require to be disciplined.

It would be impossible for any society to function without laws and agencies to enforce them.

In the wider society, if you make a habit of breaking the law, the police will sooner or later catch up with you and the courts will send you to jail.

Should any of these institutions fail, then society will become dysfunctional, and people will resort to “mob justice”.

Thus the reality is, people are, on the whole, unable to govern themselves, hence the need for stringent enforcement of the law.

The same applies to schools which can only function if there is strict adherence to the letter and spirit of the law, in the absence of which everyone is a loser.

But what has this to do with the juvenile delinquents who were filmed abusing Education CS Amina Mohamed and Interior CS Fred Matiang’i?

And what has it to do with the reaction of Kenyans who argue that the boys who gloated they had stolen examinations are too young to discipline and should instead be counselled?

In my view, there is nothing wrong with such arguments. Prison custody is not the best environment for people who are underage and who have not committed the most heinous of crimes.

Without attempting to prejudice the ruling of the court on December 3, it is difficult to see these fellows being jailed over the words they uttered while inebriated, unless it is proved that they, indeed, cheated during the Form Four exams. It is not advisable to use a studded club to brain a gnat.

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However, the sentiments expressed by some commentators in social media and even a few advocates are extremely disquieting.

They say the boys did no wrong because whatever they uttered they learnt from politicians who were never punished for it.

Others claim that no crime was committed and the boys should not have been arrested in the first place. They argue that the decision to remand the eight boys was “a high-handed executive decision to punish children”, with the willing connivance of the court.

In my view, some of these reactions are tantamount to political posturing. There is no earthly reason why the police should not have arrested those boys.

The vile names they called CS Mohamed were unjustified. Also, someone has conveniently forgotten that the no-nonsense Fred Matiang’i is in charge of the Police Service.

If you were a senior policeman, what would you do if a group of brats gratuitously insulted your boss for doing his job? Look the other way?

I add my voice to those calling for the boys’ release, but not because they were within their constitutional right to call a minister prostitute.

I do so only because they have suffered enough over a stupid escapade and jailing them will probably destroy their future.

However, even if they are let off the hook, presumably with an appropriate reprimand, there are a few lessons Kenyans should learn.

The first is that parents have taken to coddling their children too much and thereby lost the plot. The inevitable outcome is mounting indiscipline.

The spate of school fires that have, seemingly, become part of the curriculum every second term of the year are a case in point.

When dormitories are set ablaze, we grope around for explanations and, in the end, make teachers the most convenient scapegoats.

Very few voices are raised over the way parents are bringing up their children, or about all the crazy rules which have made school authorities unable to instil discipline.

The second is that some of us went through high schools in which discipline was legendary and it did not in any way harm our educational pursuits.

We were caned by the deputy headmaster for indiscipline and suspended by the headmaster when our contraventions were more serious.

Today, no headteacher dares suspend a student without the school board’s express permission. As a result, it is possible for a student to insult his teacher or even beat him up, knowing well that nothing will happen.

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