Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Need for a long term multi-disciplinary solution to the school crisis

It is still unclear as to the exact causes of the current ongoing crisis in mainly public secondary schools and whether it will spill over to the primary schools now or in the future. Amongst the issues blamed for these crises have been drugs abuse, indiscipline, poor management and cultural crash etcetera. These crises were previously common place in public universities and colleges, God forbid their graduates some who are now secondary school teachers are involved or transferred their experiences to the schools as it would complicate the finding of a solution.
What is emerging is that the current issues are historical and multi-faceted hence important to address them holistically. Put into context they also signify a society and systems at a cross road in tackling the past, present and future.
In addressing the school crisis, numerous proposals have been put forward albeit too late in the day. The fallacious one by the education ministry has been the formation of yet another commission on top of the previous countless one’s whom recommendations remains unpublished. Another proposal came from the tourism minister on bringing back the outdated corporal punishment notwithstanding it would contravene the Children Act 2002 and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 which prohibits such measures. Not to forget that even during its hay day when I was at school, corporal punishment did not resolve these crisis nor stop strikes occurring. The opposite effect was suppression of grievances, rebellion, communication and relationship breakdown with teachers. The worst case scenarios, quite common those days were the physical and psychological traumas inflicted by rogue disciplinary masters via arbitrary punishment. There was also the heart-retching punishment of children with physical, developmental or intellectual difficulties such as dyslexia, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or Autism. Admittedly, many have argued that present day violence and dysfunctional systems directly correlates with the experiences of that era.
Tellingly, such a proposal also disregards the various research findings on appropriate child moulding onto a physically, socially and emotionally secure and healthy adult. John Bowlby (1957) the father of attachment theory between child and care-giver points the key to moulding such an adult is consistency compassion, affection, understanding, sensitive, listening and empathy. More recent studies by Gaffney (1997) and Andero (2002) similarly conclude that the effects of corporal punishment are intergenerational and last for years, with the family and society at large paying the price for teachers' actions as individual often develop fear rather than respect for authority.
Worryingly, the minister’s proposals demonstrate the government scarcity of ideas and lack of adequate preparedness in responding to major crisis facing the country. Need I mention the 2007 violence, Mau forest amongst others. It is also an indictment of failure to learn from history as these crises are not new.
However, there has been laudable solutions put forward one such from the rightful education minister who is however the assistant minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology a position widely known to hold little sway or veto in policy development and implementation. He looks at the students grievances from a social rather than medical model, that, it is a society problem not just the students or schools.
Such a solution relates to the revolutionarily preventative and cost effective approach that has produced effective results elsewhere through the integration of multi-disciplinary professions in primary and secondary schools. These professions includes Educational Psychologist, Social workers, Behavioural support specialist, designated nurses, police liason officer, child Psychologist or Psychotherapist, mentors and Parent support specialist. These professions should be readily available or attached to the schools on an accessible ratio. Their role would entail undertaking a holistic SWOT assessment of the social, behavioural, physical, psychological, family, financial and educational needs in partnership with the troubled students, their teacher and parents. Thereafter, the drawing up, coordination, monitoring and management of an intervention support plan both at school and at home.
Critics of this approach may however argue that it is a westernised model and impractical but, this can be modified to fit into the Kenyan context. Others might point to the implementation cost forgetting that a stitch in time saves nine.
Thus it is imperative that this revolutional approach is implemented to narture good future leaders from our schools rather than continue to lavish our current leaders in extravagancy in the midst of desparing crisis.

Below is the assistant minister's response.

Thanks for your honest view Bwa Maina.


Hon. Dr. Kilemi Mwiria (PhD),M. P. Tigania West & Assistant Minister,Ministry of Higher Education, Science & Technology,Jogoo House " B", Harambee Avenue,

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