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Listening to students will prevent strikes

By Vision Reporter

Added 8th August 2007 03:00 AM

THE raging fire in Uganda’s secondary schools may get worse before it gets better. The roller coaster of strikes started during the first term 2007 when Bweranyangi Girls High School, traditionally known as a paragon of Christian virtue and an academic powerhouse, went on strike following the scho

THE raging fire in Uganda’s secondary schools may get worse before it gets better. The roller coaster of strikes started during the first term 2007 when Bweranyangi Girls High School, traditionally known as a paragon of Christian virtue and an academic powerhouse, went on strike following the scho

By Rev. Fred Mwesigwa

THE raging fire in Uganda’s secondary schools may get worse before it gets better. The roller coaster of strikes started during the first term 2007 when Bweranyangi Girls High School, traditionally known as a paragon of Christian virtue and an academic powerhouse, went on strike following the school administration’s decision to bar girls from dancing with Ntare School boys.

However, it was, reported that some teachers who wanted to fail the headmistress had a hand in the strike. The press reported a series of strikes and these included those at St. Leo’s College, Ibanda S.S and Sacred Heart S.S.

Come second term, the roller coaster of strikes continued. All senior three students of St. Leo’s College in Kabarole were suspended for beating Brother Etobire whose only crime was to wake them up for morning prep. Hot on the heels of St Leo’s College was Kigezi College Butobere where 45 students were expelled for causing unrest. It was reported that some teachers who were behind the strike were forwarded to the Ministry of Education for dismissal.

In Jinja, students of the Islamic Institute in Bugembe reportedly organised a strike. The cause of the strike, according to the press, was the introduction of the Sharia law and banning boys from interacting freely with girls.

Most recently, the press gave a chilling account of a violent strike by girls of St. Maria Gorreti in Kabarole who razed three dormitories, protesting the school administration’s decision to send away students who defied school rules and allowed boys to gate crash a party.

No sooner had the St. Maria Gorreti fire died down than five schools in Rukungiri were reported to have gone on strike. Not to be outdone, Nganwa High School, staged a strike, destroying property while protesting the school administration’s decision to prepare posho and meat for their guests, considered a shameful act. Students did not reflect on how shameful it is to strike.

While the dust was settling down, a strike was reported in Kasese district at King Jesus College where college property was destroyed and 30 students arrested.

The climax of strikes in Uganda has been recorded following the death of two students at Kirugu Secondary School in Bushenyi.

What is going on behind the scenes? The reasons are many, but it is my contention that there are three major problems and prime of which is the failure of school administrators to stand in the shoes of the students and listen to the students’ ‘small desires’ like interacting with their colleagues, be it for academic, entertainment or even religious purposes.

Remember boys will be boys and girls will be girls! What is important is providing for a time table and putting in place checks and balances to avoid waywardness.

Secondly, the invisible hand of disgruntled teachers is to blame. The majority of strikes are often ignited by teachers who have a score to settle, usually with the head teachers. Head teachers should encourage dialogue and treat teachers with respect.

Conversely, teachers need to respect head teachers. Education officials and Boards of Governors, as arbitrators, need to keep an ear to the ground in order to provide the much needed intervention.

The students take the biggest blame. The culture of violence dates back to the dark ages. We now live in an era of debate, dialogue, lobbying and respect for the rule of law and students should know this.

The only gain from staging strikes is the loss of valuable time, property, image of your school, your vacancy and your future.

The writer is the head of teacher training at the Uganda Christian University, Mukono

Listening to students will prevent strikes

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