The recent killing of a teacher within the school compound, allegedly by his students, has brought into a sharp focus the low level to which indiscipline in schools has sunk. A few suspects have been arrested over the incident, which is now the subject of a court case.
Following the gruesome murder of the tutor, a postgraduate student at a private university in Nakuru County, the age-old debate of whether or not corporal punishment should be reinstituted has been revived.
To cane or not to cane errant students is the question that Kenyans are grappling with.
As the debate rages, however, one thing that must be stated from the outset is that discipline in schools is non-negotiable.
This is the only way we can bring up upright members of the society. We have seen students engage in senseless strikes.
We have witnessed them repeatedly set their schools on fire. Now, some have been linked to killing.
This series of unfortunate incidents point to a complete and systematic breakdown of disciplinary measures, which are the lifeline of a successful education system.
Apparently, after corporal punishment was abolished, schools seem to have been groping in the dark regarding what kind of disciplinary mechanisms to put in place.
Enough thought seems not to have gone into what should replace the cane.
Without concrete mechanisms in place, a vacuum was created, out of which laxity among teachers to enforce stringent disciplinary measures crept in. Have we spoilt the child by sparing the rod?
What has aggravated the situation is the constant blame game between parents and teachers on who is better placed to instil discipline in a student.
Parents have held the view that because teachers spend a lot more time with the students, the onus of ensuring that they ultimately turn out well, lies squarely on the tutors’ shoulders.
However, teachers, while admitting that they have an important role to play in moulding their charges, they are quick to add that parents have a greater responsibility in shaping their children’s attitudes and behaviour, taking into account the immense influence they wield over them.
The teachers’ argument, which is indisputable, is that students are a creation of the kind of environment in which they have been brought up at home.
Admittedly, if the seeds of indiscipline are planted and watered at home, teachers have a herculean task of bringing back that student into the straight and narrow path of discipline.
So who, then, is to blame for the worrying low level of discipline in schools?
The answer is, we are all to blame — teachers, parents, school boards of management and those in charge of education, as well as the general society, which seems to revel in moral decadence. We are all in this together.
The solution, therefore, is not in pointing fingers but engaging in a serious discourse with the aim of retracing our steps and striving to urgently return our schools to the days of glory, when they were institutions that instilled in students virtues, including hard work, magnanimity, respect, honesty and patriotism.
That parents have a unique role is not debatable. Discipline begins from when a child is yet to start school.
And even when the child has commenced school, a parent must never be complacent.
When a parent, or guardian, fails to bring up their child in the right way, no matter how stringent school rules are, it would take more than a miracle for that child to revert to good behaviour.
Also, if parents bring up their children in the best way possible and then the teachers drop the ball, we will still have a big problem of indiscipline among students.
Teachers, especially in boarding schools, have a huge responsibility of ensuring that the momentum of discipline that parents have begun is not only sustained but scaled up.
The society, too, has a critical role to play. In the past, it was the responsibility of every member of the society to ensure children behaved correctly at all times.
If an adult found children engaging in acts deemed inappropriate, the duty fell on him or her to mete out instant corrective measures.
It didn’t matter if the children were known to the adult or not; indiscipline and indecency had to be quickly frowned upon and punished.
However, instilling ethics and good behaviour is no longer a collective responsibility. It is now everybody for themselves and God for us all.
Sadly, the world of social media is fuelling the worst cases of indiscipline by negatively influencing the behaviour of our children.
No wonder the Nakuru teacher was, reportedly, killed after confiscating a student’s mobile phone.