By Ronald Dennis Bukomba.
Recently the media has been awash with reports of students’ strikes in secondary schools. Students of Old Kampala SSS on July 14, 2017 went on a violent strike after being told that their head teacher Ms. Azidah Ntegane Nsubuga was to be transferred to another school following a decision by the school’s old students association.
Around the same time students of Trinity College International in Fort Portal also went on strike after they accused the administration of collecting UNEB fees and disappearing with the same later. A strike at Busalamu SSS in Bukanga Sub County, Luuka district in Busoga was also reported.
Here, students mainly in candidate classes became violent while protesting the school administration’s failure to take them to Entebbe for a geography field work trip for which it is alleged, they had paid Shs35, 000 each. Instead they had been taken to Masese landing site in Jinja district. And for them (students), that wasn’t worth their money hence the cause for a strike.
Somewhere else the event did not reach the media. In my analysis, these strikes become rampant in second term when schools are through with registration of candidates for national examinations – sometimes also the syllabus, and it is about time to do mock exams.
When such strikes occur, a lot of school property is destroyed, some students get arrested, some sustain serious injuries (can be from deep glass cuts or bullet shots), rape cases may arise and in the end, studies are called off for a while to pave way for investigations.
As this is done, the syllabus coverage in some classes is seriously affected. You may find that some schools close for the rest of that term which only brings tears to a parent who pays all the dues and hefty fines imposed.
What compels students to strikes?
However, students do not just go on strike for pleasure. Research suggests that students strike in protest of poor school nutrition (bad meals), maladministration, bad methods of teaching, poor communication, poor disciplinary or policy implementation and poor teacher-student-relations. Some do it out of influence of drug and substance abuse or peer pressure.
As a student leader, I may also stress – as a matter of fact that in most cases the administration is largely to blame for these rampant strikes because it decides and initiates all policies in the school that all student must follow.
When you conduct a one on one survey of student leaders asking them whether they are involved the decision making process, the common response is negative. School administrators have sidelined student leaders in most of the critical areas of decisions that affect all students.
This is meanness of the fact that there is a students’ association – UNSA (Uganda National Students Association) and a constitution to that effect which call both administrators and student leaders for consultation. Read article 6 of the UNSA constitution. A prefect is even described therein as an extended arm of the school administration and is supposed to implement the policies.
Now to neglect prefects or councilors in this process is to make a giant mistake. What is amusing the more is that some private institutions do not completely value the Students’ Council! In some schools it does not exist completely while in others it is there for formality.
How to end strikes?
Be that as it may, if anything is to be made toward ending these strikes, according to me, these means may be taken: One, consideration should be put on student leaders to make the general students’ body feel represented. A student just knowing that a councilor is respected by the school and has submitted their concern is good enough to calm them down.
Further these student leaders act as shock absorbers in the school. Two, emphasis should be put on the schools’ disciplinary bench to ensure that it functions impartially and without influence from superiors. If a student is found in breach of school rules, then give the law chance to decide their fate or punishment. This will help to shape the discipline of students.
Three, draft school rules that are up to date, scrap clauses that are irrelevant in this era, like a clause that prohibits students from carrying computers or flask disks yet in this era these are a requirement for students doing ICT as a subject.
Four, the administration should communicate only what they can deliver instead of being mean with the truth. They should further apologize, in a calm manner, to the students when things do not go well. This builds students’ confidence in their administration knowing that they are valued.
Lastly, take student leaders for leadership seminars to equip them with skills they can use to lead their fellow students in the right direction. Instead of inciting students to strike they may encourage them to use dialogue. Remember these words: strikes are archaic and not means for anymore to solve issues. Instead of striking give dialogue chance and forget about history which suggests otherwise.
Ronald Dennis Bukomba is the out-going Chairman Students’ Council at Hilton High School-Mukono (2016/2017).