What you need to know:
- Last year, many school buildings were set on fire as learners rioted over various grievances.
- School principals now want drug testing of learners who are suspected of abusing drugs.
Secondary school principals yesterday laid bare the extent of juvenile delinquency in the learning institutions, which has seen property worth millions of shillings destroyed, as they decried the application of the Children’s Act, which they said favours errant students.
They cited drug and substance abuse as a major factor in student indiscipline and urged the Ministry of Education to allow drug testing of students to stem rampant abuse in institutions of learning. Some learners have also been caught with weapons at school, the principals said.
Speaking during the 45th Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (Kessha) conference in Mombasa yesterday, Kessha chairperson Kahi Indimuli said the disturbing truth was that students, including those in Form One, have been caught with drugs and related substances.
“We have established that most students who burn schools are high on drugs and this is a situation that must be addressed and arrested in schools,” said Mr Indimuli, who is also the chief principal of Machakos School.
Last year, many school buildings were set on fire as learners rioted over various grievances. Mr Indimuli led the calls for drug testing of learners suspected to be abusing drugs.
“The findings will inform the school, parents and the government. If a school confirms students are abusing drugs, it doesn’t mean the child will be sent away or punished. Measures and programmes will be introduced to fight the vice. The parent will know their child who is hooked on drugs and the state will take responsibility,” he said, adding that the Children’s Act should be incorporated in the Ministry of Education regulations on tackling discipline cases.
“Most of the students caught burning schools and abusing drugs have been going scot free as the law treats them as children,” said Mr Indimuli. Maranda High School Chief Principal Edwin Namachanja said some students are initially disciplined but their behaviour changes once they join secondary schools.
“In the recent past, we have experienced students burning schools, students demanding a walk out of school while others do not want to obey school rules and regulations. We also have challenges with students involved in drug abuse while others refuse to sit exams citing lack of preparedness,” he explained. Maranda High School’s dormitory was torched last year during a wave of students’ unrest.
Dr Namachanja added that students who have been caught with dangerous weapons in schools endanger the safety of their teachers and other students. He said some students have attempted suicide, while some have taken their lives.
The school heads described the use of mobile phones in schools as a major problem as students not only use them to cheat in exams but also to engage in criminal activities. Dr Namachanja said at Maranda High School, teachers found writings on toilet walls last year threatening to burn down the school so that the learners would be released to go home.
“Despite engaging the students [in discussions], they still went ahead and burnt one dormitory,” he explained, adding that, after checking CCTV footage, they caught the culprits who admitted to committing the crime.
“We handed them over to the police, but we lost that case in court as it was ruled that the students did not record the statements in front of an advocate or their parents,” he revealed.
The principal also accused parents of shielding their indisciplined children.
“One parent completely denied that his son was abusing bhang when the school brought it to his attention. He went into shock when the boy confessed it in front of him,” he said.
The principal of King David High School Kamama, in Embu County, Mr Kirimi Marika, said that some students use snuff in school.
“Last term, I was shocked to find out some of my students were using tobacco and covering it with face masks in a way that teachers cannot find out,” he revealed.
The senior principal of Hirimani Secondary School in Tana River County, Mr Thomas Mungatana, said many girls had already gotten married when schools reopened last year after the long closure and teachers had to beg their husbands to release them to return to school.
He said students involved in the burning of schools are usually drug addicts.
“When we investigated, we discovered that those involved were abusing drugs while in school. In most cases, these students begin abusing drugs in primary school,”he said. The annual conference started yesterday and will end on Friday. This year’s theme is: “Re-examining our future together; a new era of education in Kenya”.
The more than 7,500 principals will also discuss teacher promotions, the competency-based curriculum, government readiness for junior secondary, and teacher preparedness and training.
“We will also discuss the issue of more funding and capitation. Bring in critical stakeholders to support education funding, especially infrastructure. We are meeting after two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Mr Indimuli.
He said the pandemic has exposed challenges in the public education sector where learning was halted. He urged the state to invest in technology to curb future shocks.