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LETTERS: Let’s tackle real cause of unrest in schools

LETTERS: Let’s tackle real cause of unrest in schools

Solutions proposed for the current unrest in schools shows Kenya has a deep adultism problem. Adultism is the assumption that adults are better and young people can be mistreated simply because they are young. This mistreatment happens in learning institutions, supported by laws and customs. The West is aware and struggling against racism, we are aware about tribalism. But it seems we are not aware of our adultism intolerance. The most obvious expression of adultism has been our refusal to listen to students and act as arbiters on school management issues.The government has created time to listen to taxi drivers, hawkers and squatters, but not our children. This is adultism par excellence. What goes unnoticed in the ongoing school unrest is how we are using our adult rationalities to oppress children. We are treating children, not as the young members of society, but as inferior, unreasonable brats, destroyed by an exaggerated sense of entitlement.During my high school days, we were allowed ‘free walks’ on weekends.

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Schools were even freer before. I am told Kenyatta University had both high school and university students. Same to Technical University of Kenya. But we started reducing these freedom as freedoms outside schools expanded.It is ironical that our expanding multiparty democracy has been matched by continuous restrictions and militarisation of schools. Things worsened so much that from 2010, the National Intelligence Service has been unleashed on our children during examinations. The constitutional right to free expression and free movement are restricted on claims of protecting children from themselves.The outcome has been creating prisons out of boarding schools, with our children denied access to public spaces, information, and entertainment. I guess denial of the FIFA World Cup is among reasons for the recent violence in our schools.If militarisation of boarding schools is to protect our children from a society, it means the interests of children have not been considered during policy formulation.For example, if we had as many policemen securing our children as the number of policemen controlling traffic, there would be no need of the prison-like boarding schools to protect children from ills of the society.Our children would be safe in any place. It seems rather than the than society protecting its children, militarised boarding schools are expected to protect children from the society. Adultism is also seen in how adult responsibilities are imposed on children. An example is the recent warning by the Directorate of Criminal Investigation that school children involved in violence will in their adulthood have the crimes reflected certificates of good conduct. It is like we expect our children to know the penal code. As American school philosopher John Dewey once said, “Nature wants children to be children before they are men”. We need more anti-adultist solutions to the problems affecting our schools. Our adultism is a form post-colonialism, the new colonial-like oppression against our children, as it is not different from British colonialism of the 1950s.

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