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Thursday,October 22,2020 21:52 PM

Who is to blame for school strikes?

By Vision Reporter

Added 29th October 2001 03:00 AM

The recent strikes in secondary schools left behind a lot of destruction of property. They also left people asking the question why.

The recent strikes in secondary schools left behind a lot of destruction of property. They also left people asking the question why.

The recent strikes in secondary schools left behind a lot of destruction of property. They also left people asking the question why. So we asked you to write in giving the causes of school strikes and what could be done to ensure they never happen again. Education Vision brings you some of the letters you wrote. I think the school administration should be blamed for the strikes because teachers don’t listen to students’ problems. For instance, students may tell teachers that the latrine is full and overflowing with maggots. The teachers kee promising that something will be done but weeks go by and nothing is done. Students become frustrated and end up striking. Prefects should also be blamed because they are students leaders. It is therefore their responsibility to liaise between students and the school administration. Students take the blame because some strikes may take place because of a conflict between two classes or dormitories. Solutions: Teachers should be able to listen to students' complaints. l On the other hand, students should be able to understand when the administration cannot afford to meet some of their demands. For example, some students may want to eat good meals like matooke, meat, chicken instead of the usual posho and beans. l Harsh punishments such as digging an anthill to bring out the queen should be done away with. l Caning students for failing exams must also be revisited. l Expel students who lead others into striking as a warning to other students that strikes will not be tolerated. l Teachers should be paid promptly so that they can teach instead of cutting lessons. Students may strike because they are not taught well. l Headteachers need management skills to run their schools well. Stella Lakers St Joseph Girls SSS, Nsambya. Nsambya. * * * In my view, strikes have become common in secondary schools mainly due to poor management. School administrations always tend to do things in their favour. They do not allow students to express their ideas, problems and suggestions. Students are also to blame. We tend to ask for things that the administrators cannot afford and we want them immediately. So we go on strike in order to achieve them. Strikes in secondary schools can be solved by students realising that after the strike the grievances remain and innocent parents have to pay heavily. The ministry of Education should not just sit back and relax. It should come in and help headteachers solve problems in their various schools. Communication is also important. Anthony Musana S2B, Kiira College Butiki. * * * I propose the following measures to be adopted in all schools to minimise or eliminate the now rampant strikes and related acts of hooliganism. l Students applying and or intending to join secondary and other institutions of higher learning must swear an “anti-strike allegiance oath”. This should be done before a magistrate. l The oath should state that “a student shall not get involved in agitating or organising a strike.” l An anti-strike department be opened specifically to handle complaints and problems which cause strikes. This department should be empowered to elect its own anti-strike prefects in each class, dormitory or halls of residence. The anti-strike prefects should be in constant touch with the school administration, board of governors, district education leaders and the police. l An anti strike fund should be levied on every student. a separate account be opened for this money which may be refunded termly and or yearly. Where a student , in the course of a term or year indulges in organising or participating in a strike, such money may be forfeited to meet costs resulting from the strike. l Students’ problems such as poor diet and poor teaching be reported by the aggrieved students through the anti-strike prefects. l Parents, guardians and next of kin of students must endeavour to visit the school at least twice a term purposely to evaluate the school and student performance socially and academically. l Candidates be permitted to hold socials if they so wish at the end of the term or year. The socials should be supervised by some teachers and prefects. Charles Oolio, Kumi. * * * Although the pretexts for school strikes seem logical, there are other major issues in our education system that may need the intervention of the policy makers. One such issue is streaming. In a very large number of schools children are categorised into A,B,C and D, on the basis of their academic ability. The students who are ascertained as educationally weak are allocated a specific class normally, ‘D’. Those ascertained as educationally “high flyers” are allocated the ‘A’ stream. Many teachers unfortunately believe that streaming is a good practice. They reason that it enables them to identify students with exceptional needs, who are then placed in a specific stream for either compensatory or specialised instruction. Teachers also believe that the students may feel challenged and compelled to study hard as a result of the circumstances pertaining inside their stream. Being allocated the stream for high achievers may compel the student to study hard in order to avoid relegation to a lower stream. Likewise, students in the lower stream are believed to work hard to get promoted to a better stream. A number of studies, however, has indicated that the practice of streaming is wrought with many problems. For instance, teachers seem to prefer teaching students with high academic ability because they require less attention and are “easy to teach” as one teacher in Iganga observed. Several teachers also confessed that streams of weak students are often neglected because the teachers find them less motivating to teach than the bright students’ streams. The way children are streamed into ability groups can have a direct influence on their behaviour and educational attainment. It can isolate students with low academic ability and may hurt their already low self image further by creating the impression that they are a failure. ‘A’ stream students work hard, pay attention in class, obey teachers and have good manners. The ‘A’ student is accordingly rewarded by positive interactions with their teacher. Such interactions boost the students self-image and consequently their academic performance. In the lower stream (D) students behave quite differently. The students are also given little prestige by those in authority who refer to them as lazy and ‘a waste of time.’ The students are thus deprived of status by being labelled failures. One solution to being defined as a failure is to reject the system, the people who define you and the values they represent. The ‘D’ student rejects school values and develop values in opposition to those up held by the school. Disrupting lessons, giving teachers problems, refusing to do home-work, fighting and smoking on school premises is applauded by those in lower streams. With time, two subcultures develop in the school. One is the subculture of high academic achievement and positive behaviour. The other is one of failure and negative behaviour. Students in the lower streams choose friends from their own stream in which they can gain status and respect. In this way the anti-school peer group is formed. In this way the students help to solve their problem of status deprivation and frustration brought about by the school. By acting in terms of the values of the anti-school peer group they at least have a chance of being successful in somebody’s eyes. Streaming in schools may therefore be the inherent cause of strikes. Moses Bakaswirewa, Lecturer, Educational Psychology, Busoga University. * * * Ifirst witnessed a violent student uprising at Mwiri in 1997 when I was in S1. “Bad food,” “corruption”, were the major chants by the furious students. Where there is smoke there is fire. Students rarely strike because another student has wronged them. They would rather settle the score amongst themselves. For students to go on strike, they must have a problem with the school administration. When students feel isolated and misunderstood, when they are denied freedom of speech, they become despondent and react violently. This is because they feel helpless to put their case forward. Clearly the blame here must be borne by the indifferent administration. At times, the Ministry of Education doesn’t pay teachers on time so they also don’t deliver. On the other hand though, I must admit that sometimes we students over-react. Anger hatred and other emotions take control. We override objectivity, reason and fact. Poor meals, an incompetent system and niggling policies shouldn’t lead to destruction of any property. Clearly it’s not worth it. A sit down demonstration would very much drive our grievances home to whoever it concerns. In fact, in case of a violent strike, the biggest loser at the end of the day is the student for the following reasons. Destruction of our own documents, closing down the school prematurely and indefinitely and our parents punishing us for wasting their hard-earned money. To tackle strikes in schools, I would suggest the following: l Setting up of strong and influential student councils up to national level. This would help nip uprisings in the bud and project students’ concerns. l Student councils should further be strengthened by the Ministry of Education, say by increasing their arbitrary powers in students affairs. The aim here is not to change school policy but to better it. l An effective system of dialogue between students and teachers at all levels most especially headteachers should be established and sustained. It is very unlikely that students will rise up against a friendly and listening administration. This promotes coherence and transparency. l To minimise inefficiency, teachers, headteachers in particular, should be paid in time and should remember that their ‘first trade’ is to teach. l The hierarchical bureaucracies, which stop efforts to project students’ concerns, should be replaced with a more direct and transparent body. l Punishment for those who strike should be severe but targeted so that in future those who incite others into striking will think twice. This would also discourage others from participating. l Headteachers whose schools are always dogged by strikes should be relieved of such duties and retired instead of unfruitful transfers. l The whole administrative system should be overhauled by the Education Ministry, the Board of Governors of the school because it’s only fair to say they are incapable of delivering smoothly. Ivan Nsoita, S5PEM Makerere College School, Kampala. * * * Headteachers, teachers and students are the people to blame for school strikes. In most cases, headteachers fail to explain to and negotiate with students about the students’ demands. Headteachers, being administrators, ought to know that conflict resolution requires tact. For example, if students demand for a tour or a dance, it is needless for headteachers to refuse outright without dialogue with the students. They should be open to the students. l Some headteachers embezzle and misuse finances and leave students to suffer without proper meals. Students also miss examinations and teachers are not paid. l Teachers sometimes mete out uncalled for and inhuman punishment to students. Teachers also fail to perform their duties like teaching and marking examinations. some of them even open students letters and read them out loud before their fellow students, hence embarrassing the victims. l There are some students who are bent on causing chaos. These are indisciplined and possibly dull students who want to disrupt studies and examinations in order to use the strikes as a scapegoat for their poor performance. l In order to stop school strikes, headteachers should open up avenues for dialogue with students, through sensitising and briefing student leaders, utilising the notices effectively without leaving an information vacuum. l Headteachers should consider students’ demands in order to determine whether they are genuine and relevant or not and act accordingly but not brushing them off outright. They should also avoid embezzling finances and be honest. l Teachers should be sympathetic, parental and fair. They should try as much as possible to perform their duties. l If there are perpetual offenders, then expulsion is the only solution because they could be up to some thing else and won’t give up. Okiror Ben Kokas (teacher), Soroti Central SS, Soroti. * * * what can be done to stop the strikes? Strikes can never be completely stopped. Parents should should devote more time and attention to our children. l Show by example rather than preaching what good behaviour is about. l Teach our children positive traditional values while assisting them to discard negative ones like witchcraft. l Teach them how to democratically relate to authority, visit them at school and, while there, avoid ostentatious behaviour especially that which dramatises class differences. l Show great respect to teachers. l The community can help by becoming “our brothers’ keepers”. l We should do what we preach so that we influence young people through practical examples. l We should take bold positions on sensitive issues like pornographic publications and homosexuality, - even at the cost of our popularity. l Let us teach students how to cope in competitive situations. For instance, could it be that the wave of strikes towards the end the year is the fear of competition on the part of S4 and S6 students? l Career guidance and the counselling will also help. Dr. Ijuka Kabumba, Kampala. * * * The rampant schools strikes in the country may have genuine causes but they are not the best alternative to showing discontent. To me the blame goes to both school administrators and students leaders. l The school administrators at times don’t lead by principle but by what students want, this reaches an extent where the interest of the students can’t be tolerated. Where the administrators fail to consider the students’ interests, the students resort to other means of showing dissatisfaction which is mainly by striking. l The student leaders, the prefectorate body too are to blame. The prefects should be able to convey the students’ grievances direct to the concerned individuals. The prefectorate body should also hold regular meetings with the school administration. l To help the prefects, there should be a council of students where each class or stream has at least two representatives. The student council should meet at least once a week to discuss the issue that affect the students. One of the measures that can be taken to address the issue of strikes is leading by principle where the administration does not compromise where indiscipline is concerned. l The parents of indisciplined students should also be called upon to discuss with the administrators of the best way to handle the students. l The prefectorate body should also be given some degree of autonomy to lead fellow students. This is because students feel more comfortable with their peers than older people. l Schools should also put in place suggestion boxes that are situated in convenient places where the students can freely drop their suggestions without the intimidation by the school authorities. l The suggestion box should have a reliable person to open it whom the students trust. Students’ suggestions must be handled in confidence with no names revealed. Eric Katarirya, Makerere College School, Kampala. Kampala Students would very much like to know whatever goes in the school in terms of finance control, administration, etc. if the students are carefully told about what may have gone wrong, they are ever willing to bar with the inconveniences that may be caused as long as they are assured that a similar incidence won’t re-occur. Lastly the parents should also be involved in the administration of the school in the following ways; they should attend school meetings whenever called upon, parents should also teach their children to be law abiding and tolerant even if they are not happy with what the school does and also parents should counsel their students. * * * I think headteachers are to blame for strikes due to school mismanagement. Strikes usually occur after a series of incidents that the school administrators either deliberately fail to address or are too incompetent to comprehend in the first place. however, here are some solutions that I suggest. l The ministry of Education should organise country wide conferences for both headteachers and teachers with the aim of sensitising them issues concerning ways of avoiding strikes. These could be on life skills like conflict resolution and negotiation. l Schools should employ well trained counsellors to advise the teachers on which course of action to take in case of student misconduct. l Schools should ensure transparency in communication between the administrators and the students for efficiency. l Counsellors should also be invited to talk to the ring leaders of the strike and the rest of the students. This will hopefully show the students, especially the ring leaders that going on strike is not the best solution. l Students should also be given a hearing when problems arise. This will help them feel understood and valued. It will also make them loyal to the school. l Avoid expelling students as expulsion is a sign of weakness and surrender on the part of the school administration. It generally implies that the school has failed to play one of its roles. l School administrators should always be willing to listen to students’ complaints so as to address them earlier enough rather than turning a deaf ear which is a direct call for strikes. l If the children are tired of eating posho and beans, the school administration should take heed and change the diet. Students should not be given bad food. Teddy Maria Byaale, (Student), Iganga Secondary School. ends

Who is to blame for school strikes?

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