New wave of violence in schools

Burning their future: A destroyed classroom

By Bernard Thungwa

Of late we have witnessed the resurgence of violent acts by students in some secondary schools in the country. Some schools that were recently involved in these violent acts include Blantyre Secondary School, Thyolo Seco- ndary School, Lunzu Secondary School and St. Michaels Girls’ Seco- ndary School. Most of the causes of these violent acts are the same, with some variations of course. Coincidentally, this has been happening when the country is experiencing post-election demonstrations which in most cases are violent. There are also some flashes of religious violence in the country happening under the shield of right to dressing when attending classroom activities.

Causes and Effects of Strikes

Some of the possible causes of a school-based strike include a feeling of dissatisfaction: students may feel dissatisfied in the way their learning is taking place. Their expectations may not have been met by the teachers.

Poor diet also plays a greater role in initiating the strikes. This entails why most strikes occur in boarding secondary schools. Poor hygiene also contributes to strikes. For example, if learners are struggling to get safe and clean water, they may riot against the administration for failing to provide portable water. A deep-rooted culture may also fuel the practice of strikes. There are some schools which are famous of being notorious. This label of notoriety may haunt the institutions year in year out.

There are some causes which can be thought of as being ‘real causes’. These may include some members of staff, who are always against the administration, may orchestrate the strikes. Loosely said, for every riot by students, a member of staff is behind it. This may be through some subjects which promote human rights, or merely instigating the learners to revolt.

Failure to communicate properly some decisions to the students may cause havoc. For instance, why are the students only taking beans and vegetables and not meat? Provision of substandard services can also be a breeding ground for strikes. Some teachers, for example, work very hard in the open school but not so hard in the normal school.

Fraudulent practices within the school may anger the students. These may include illegal admissions of some learners which may exert pressure on the already scarce school resources. Mass transfer of teachers whom the students were trusting for their education also fuels strikes. To show their solidarity with the transferred teachers, students can riot. And last but not least, delay in responding to the concerns of the   students can lead to strikes.

The immediate effect of strikes at the school is the closure of the institution which affects the learning cycle. Some closures are short while others may take a little bit longer. All this depends on the nature of the violence.

During any violent strike there is loss of property, and in worst cases life can be lost. In most schools, strikers target infrastructure. They destroy, pull down, burn and break buildings like classrooms, laboratories, teachers’ houses, recreation halls, the kitchen block, administration block, etc. Sometimes they target vehicles for the school and those of staff members. The damage may cost a lot of money to replace.

When ring leaders are identified in such violent acts, they are made to pay for the damage caused or worse still, they are expelled from school. In the event that no particular person has been identified as a ring leader, all students contribute towards the replacement of the damaged property.

If students were able to exercise their rights with some limits, strikes could be rare. Contact and dialogue between members of staff and the students can help avert strikes. Commitment to duty by all teachers, will make the students adhere to school rules and regulations and they will always seek friendly ways of solving problems. Timely communication on any important decision will prepare the students psychologically to accept it.

If all citizens of Malawi were patriotic and owned the country, we wouldn’t wish to destroy the same property that is helping us, let alone harm the same person whom we treat as a brother. If we can tolerate one another regardless of so many differences among us, our children will grow respecting one another.

If our predecessors destroyed the schools we are learning in now, we wouldn’t find good places for schooling. We should take extra care of our learning institutions! Future generations will use the same!

Happy New Year to you all!

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