Indiscipline in schools: A tale of the carrot and stick
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Despite issuing stringent regulations, habits such as smoking, bullying and theft, among others, continue to thrive in schools. Surprisingly, many parents are quick to refute claims pointing towards the indiscipline involving their children. It is this denial that even poses a bigger threat to the stakeholders who want to wipe out such anti-social behaviour from schools.
Although indecent behaviour can be acquired from the community, most people believe that the major sources are the homes and schools where students spend most of the time.
Theophile Habiyambere, the dean of studies at Gashora Girls School in Bugesera, explains that parents who delegate all duties to caretakers at home provide good breeding grounds for anti-social behaviour in children.
“It is these housemaids who train children in habits such as theft as the parents remain occupied with busy work schedules,” says Habiyambere.
After acquiring such behavioral attributes, students conceal them from their parents in order to win favours and to remain on the safe side of their defense when called to school.
“No wonder parents are naïve when anti-social incidences are reported. Even with limited information, they continuously deny any involvement of their children in behaviour that contradicts school rules,” he adds.
While majority of parents remain unaware of this behaviour, Jane Nakayi, an English teacher at Riviera High School, explains that school-going children only expose their true colours when they are with their peers.
“At home they are good children but it is a completely different story when they reach school. In fact, many want to show off among their peers,” she says.
Nakayi, who recalls several anti-social incidences at her old school, adds that a few desperate learners are driven into bullying by the desire to gain fame at School.
“We were constantly bullied by one boy at school who wanted to gain fame. On one April 1, he told us that the teacher was calling us to pick our results. It was raining heavily but we all ran to the staff room and there was no teacher at all. He used to take advantage of us because we were new students. To date, I still remember this bully,” she adds.
Unfortunately, when schoolteachers come to learn of such notorious characters, they either deal with the indisciplined cases or completely isolate them.
However, Beatrice Ampire, a teacher at little Bears Montessori in Kimihura, warns that isolating notorious cases could induce more learners into misbehaviour.
“Ignoring an indisciplined student does not take away the problem; it worsens the situation. The same students will encourage other learners to become unruly,” says Ampire.
On the other hand, teachers who choose to rehabilitate anti-social students address the problem through simple punishment or regular counseling sessions.
At College Apaper, for instance, students who misbehave serve small punishments but these could be tougher when the indiscipline continues.
“The first step is to give them simple punishments like asking them to slash the compound, but if the behaviour becomes extreme, they are asked to call their parents to discuss the next step,” says Jeanne Ayinkamiye, a teacher from College Apaper.
Whereas some students may take advantage and serve such light punishments, not all cases of indiscipline at school deserve a second chances, and such others may face immediate dismissal.
Ben Muvunyi, a teacher from Kigali Harvest, for example, says that as long as concrete evidence to pin the student can be adduced, mistakes like involvement in drug abuse is never tolerated.
“It depends on the case; if it’s beyond our area of jurisdiction, we involve the parent and we make sure such a student is monitored strictly. With drug abuse, there are no concessions; we expel the students from the school immediately,” he says.
When does such behaviour arise?
Much as there is no specific age for indiscreet behaviour at school, Kigali-based counselor Joyce Kirabo explains that majority of anti-social behaviour arises during the adolescent stage when students want to assume a right to exercise more freedom.
“During this stage, students feel they are grown up and sometimes demand more freedom. They also try to look out for all loopholes in the school regulations,” explains Kirabo.
However, old students, especially those in boarding schools, bully new-comers by forcing them to do school chores or forcefully taking some of their belongings like eats and other personal effects.
Deogratius Kayinamura, a parent in Nyarutarama, however puts the blame on schools for failing to carry out proper background checks on the students before admitting them.
“Take an example of boarding schools; they will put students from different places together in one room without establishing their background. One bad tomato is enough to spoil others. It is common for old students to teach the innocent ones bad behaviour,” he says.
Peter Muhizi, a parent in Remera, echoes similar views, explaining that schools need to do more than just admitting students to curb practices such as alcoholism and drug abuse.
“Sometimes when you send students to school, they come back with totally different behaviour. It means there is something that schools could be doing wrong,” he adds.
Violette Mahoro a parent in Kikuciro, however, believes that much as schools could have an influence on students’ behaviour, homes are supposed to play a greater role in curbing antiisocial behaviour.
“Schools have limited time to engage in issues affecting every student. For example, a school with over 1,000 students can’t have enough time to look into all their personal issues,” she says.
Students want indisciplined colleagues punished heavily
While school authorities dictate the measures to handle students who misbehave, some students who spoke to the Education Times said their counterparts should be given strong punishments.
Peter Ntwali, a student from GS Rugando, wants everyone involved in theft or bullying suspended for several days instead of receiving simple punishments while they continue with school.
“If a student is found on the wrong side of the law, the best approach is to suspend them from school for at least one week, otherwise minor punishments like slashing the compound are never good enough,” he explains.
Sandrines Rugema, a senior six vacist from Glory Secondary School, says she believes students should undergo counseling before being dismissed.
“It is important to talk to young people by citing for them examples of students who have successfully reformed from such behaviour. If this fails, they should be dismissed from school,” she says.
As an administrative policy, public schools normally have disciplinary committees, composed of a disciplinary master, a students leadership body and other teachers.
Although most times parents are involved in solving indiscipline cases, it is this group that is charged with the role of maintaining order within the school.
Causes, symptoms of anti-social behaviour
Anti-social behaviour develops and is shaped in the context of coercive social interactions within the family , community, and educational environment. It is also influenced by the child’s temperament and irritability, cognitive ability, the level of involvement with deviant peers, exposure to violence, and deficit of cooperative problem-solving skills. Anti-social behaviour is frequently accompanied by other behavioural and developmental problems such as hyperactivity, depression, learning disabilities, and impulsivity.
Multiple risk factors for development and persistence of anti-social behaviours include genetic, neurobiological, and environmental stressors beginning at the prenatal stage and often continuing throughout the childhood years.
High-risk factors in the family setting include the following:
- Parental history of anti-social behaviours
- Parental alcohol and drug abuse
- Chaotic and unstable home life
- Absence of good parenting skills
- Use of coercive and corporal punishment
- Parental disruption due to divorce , death, or other separation
- Parental psychiatric disorders, especially maternal depression
- Economic distress due to poverty and unemployment
Heavy exposure to media violence through television, movies, Internet sites, video games , and even cartoons has long been associated with an increase in the likelihood that a child will become desensitised to violence and behave in aggressive and anti-social ways. However, research relating the use of violent video games with anti-social behaviour is inconsistent and varies in design and quality, with findings of both increased and decreased aggression after exposure to violent video games.
Companions and peers are influential in the development of anti-social behaviours. Some studies of boys with anti-social behaviours have found that companions are mutually reinforcing with their talk of rule breaking in ways that predict later delinquency and substance abuse.
How do you deal with students who break school rules
Aminadhad Niyoshuti, English teacher
It depends on the age of the student. For instance, when the child is in upper classes, the best way to handle them is by giving them guidance and counseling since most of them are in their adolescent stage. The case is different for small kids, where small punishments may do.
Joseph Musafiri,a parent from Kicukiro
Parents should work closely with teachers to bring up students who are morally upright. I believe when a child is brought up that way, there will be less cases of misbehaviour. Besides, children should be punished and counseled in order for them to excel both in school and outside school.
Christella Habiyaremye, S1 student, Mother Mary Complex
I believe every student should be ready to face the consequences of their deeds. Errant students should face tough punishments because when you try to be lenient to them, the probability of them making the same mistake is high. Parents should try to bring up their children in an upright manner to avoid such issues.
Steve Serubibi, a student from University of Rwanda
As a student, the only way out is to remain a part of these groups. Isolating your colleagues because they are indulging in vices like drug abuse only forces them to slide deeper into the habit. Talking to these students and offering them the necessary social support will eventually help them to emulate you and quit the bad habits.
Divine Ishimwe, S2 student at Apaper Complex School
For the parents, when their children are caught in any cases of indiscipline, they should regulate their access to mobile phones and television. I believe it is from this where most of them try to imitate what they watch, regardless of whether it’s good or bad.
Compiled By Lydia Atieno.