Multiple high schools in Kenya have almost been reduced to ashes over the past few weeks. For close to two decades, learning has been interrupted almost yearly by students’ riots. Fire is a close ally to these. Every time this happens the conclusion is the same; the students are rowdy, lack discipline, and are jittery about National examinations.
Therein lies the problem, or rather, part of it. This has been the conclusion every time according to all parties except the most crucial one, the students. Thousands of students acting wild year after year and the conclusion is always the same makes absolutely no sense to me. This is the situation even in the school’s themselves. Too many crucial decisions are made about the students without their very critical input. Did the students say they fear KCSE? The answer is a hefty “NO”. If indeed these students are just bad people as we’re led to believe, why is it that they never burn their estates and villages? Why is their rage directed specifically towards their schools? Simple, because the schools make them want to act like hooligans.
I was a highschool student not so long ago and while I do not agree with setting public amenities ablaze, I understand why someone would want to. In theory, teachers are angels likened to doctors and nurses for the critical role they play. Unfortunately, that’s just as far as it goes. Theory. Some of these individuals terrorize young boys and girls and call it instilling discipline. We’ve all seen the videos going viral, yet no corrective and punitive action is taken. My mind wanders to an incident where I sat on the floor for an entire lesson because the teacher had made it a rule not to enter the class after she had. I had rushed to the next class to acquire a text book and met her at the door. I was brought up right so I gave way, thus entering after her. The next thing I knew, “You’re late for my class. Have a floor.” This is small, very insignificant. However recurrent displays of such malice is enough to get students riled up and we all know what happens when a population has mutual anger.
Schools have unfortunately been transformed to prisons that force students to conform to standards and rules that, surprise surprise, are determined by everyone except the students. Teachers are gods who get away with just about anything from wrongful capital punishments (yes,they exist despite what the Constitution says) to outright discrimination/favoritism. The students are voiceless and are almost never listened to. Teachers form a militia of sorts and sometimes recruit students into these and call them fancy names such as “Prefect”,”Secretary” and “Captain”. Instruments of oppression, I say. They’re used to instill fear and advance the teachers’ spiteful agendas. Take, for instance, a situation where there’s a bit of commotion but it’s nothing sinister. A teacher gets the wrong idea and forces the prefects to give the names of perpetrators of a crime that never occured. When this happens over and over again the result is a blazing dormitory.
The system is rigged to suppress creativity and slave poor students for the sake of shallow grades that make it seem like the teachers are doing their jobs. Students who are more inclined to the arts and sports are mistreated thoroughly. Their natural gifts are trampled on and insulted, and everything is done to surpress them. I once got punished for missing a lesson because I was representing the school at a Drama Competition. The play I wrote won by the way.
I could go on and one about similar injustices but then this article would be too long and I’m not here to rant. The point is, there are always two sides and so far everyone has been myopic on this issue of blazing schools. I remember how angry I was with the school, the system and specific individuals. Most people can. The same teachers who caused hell for you are still in school putting someone else through the same. They’ve probably gotten better at it too. The only difference is that the current victims have had enough and are now sending a message.
You can always read a text message or assume what it says. We’ve assumed for too long. Let us now read. This is a cry for help. This is a call to change. Think of South Africa’s fight for independence. This is revolution by fire.