Kigali high schools endangering students over late-coming

I don’t know whether it happens across the country, but the habit of Kigali based high-schools turning back students over late-coming should be revised and reversed because it’s a counterproductive approach that endangers students, especially females.

Traditionally, schools have always been managed by ‘dictatorial’ administrators where students hardly have any say in the policies under which they are schooled.

But in this era of the internet, the benefits of attending traditional schools have become relative, due to the liberalization of learning platforms that have put knowledge within reach of anyone with access; therefore, education institutions need to revise their managerial approaches.

Today, some teachers are challenged because some of their students know much more about subjects that they’re taught in classrooms since they have access to the internet and are self-taught through basic searches on Google and other knowledge pots.

Gone are the days when the teacher’s book of notes on a subject was regarded sacred. They were often large books whose covers were protected with several layers of old newspapers; but even then, their old age could easily be spotted from the wrinkled pages after decades of service.

But the internet is the world’s assembly of school teachers’ note-books, it’s the ocean of knowledge and all the present-day student needs, is minimal explanation of a concept, from a teacher or anyone else. No wonder, online course graduates are on the rise.

According to a survey by the Babson Research Group, about 33 percent of college students are taking at least one course online; schools and employers are recognizing that online courses can be just as effective – and sometimes more effective – than classroom courses.

This simply means traditional school administrators need to humble themselves and become more democratic in the way they manage students, especially those who attend day school. They should not be extreme while dealing with aspects such as late-coming.

Because I start work at 9am, I leave my place a few minutes past 8am. Quite often, I have seen packs of students walking back home and initially, it got me wondering why they leave so early.

For those of you that have used the Niboye road through St. Joseph connecting to Kabeza, you must have seen these kids lazing by the roadsides, frantically asking for lifts.Because of the cautious nature of most adults, few will stop to offer lifts.

So they often stay on the road for hours. Some of them resort to sitting under tree-shades, and either revise their books from there or simply gossip about local celebrities and other grapevine topics.

Some go into local drinking spots in the neighborhood. Some go to visit their friends, mostly, unemployed friends who stay home when everyone else is at work.

Recently I stopped to interview a young man whom I found walking back home after being turned back for late coming. He was in the company of two colleagues, a boy and a girl and they were walking to Kanombe as they couldn’t find a lift.

“They send anyone away that gets to school after 7:30am; it is challenging to be on time every day because we don’t own personal cars and we don’t have school buses that have direct routes to our schools, so it is really hard,” he told me.

If schools were run by democratic administrators, such a voice would have been picked up and informed some policy reviews on how to manage late-coming among students.

Schools are meant to keep students safe but the practices of turning them back over late coming puts them in harm’s way as they are tempted to find alternative ways of spending the unwanted free time since many of them prefer not to return home until after school hours.

So a parent will be at work, knowing the son or daughter went to school; but they got there ten minutes late and they were turned back.

Together with the others, they decide to find something to do with the time, few will put it to good use. Many will engage in dangerous behavior including smoking and drinking.

Female students exposed to this kind of environment are at risk of sexual harassment that will in extreme cases lead to sexual activity causing unwanted pregnancies, contracting sexually transmitted diseases, all, ultimately leading to dropping-out of schools hence crashed dreams.

According to the Ministry of Education, in 2015, the national dropout rate in primary schools stood at 5.7 per cent, 6.5 per cent in lower-secondary and 2.5 per cent in upper-secondary education.

But further scrutiny of the factors behind those statistics will indicate that unreasonable school administration policies such as managing late-coming among students, are to blame, to a fair extent. School administrators need to devise smarter ways of managing late-coming.

Students should be allowed on the school compound and if they must be punished for late-coming, it must happen on campus because it safeguards them from the dangerous activity that happens off-campus. Also, schools should democratize their administrative policies and make staying at school a more enjoyable experience for students.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.