Discipline: How best to handle students’ grievances

The teaching career requires one to be patient and passionate because handling students from diverse backgrounds is not an easy task.
Students interact during break time. Handling students' concerns fairly can help boost academic performance. / Lydia Atieno
Students interact during break time. Handling students' concerns fairly can help boost academic performance. / Lydia Atieno

The teaching career requires one to be patient and passionate because handling students from diverse backgrounds is not an easy task.

Aminadhad Niyonshuti, an English teacher at Apaper in Kicukiro, Kigali, says she one found herself in a fix when one of his students raised a complaint that he was favouring a certain student more. For Niyonshuti he thought since the said student was weak in class, being closer to him and giving him more tasks would help him improve academically.

 

Niyonshuti’s dilemma is just one scenario of how complex it can be to deal with students as it always evokes mixed reactions.

 

According to Anastasia Nkusi, a disciplinary teacher at GS Sihinga in Gasabo District, depending on the complaint, a teacher should find a strategic way of getting a fair solution to the student.

 

He says good solutions help a student faced with difficulty to move on with their studies, which leads to better performance.

“As a teacher, coming across such complaints may not be a new thing. What they should do is to find a professional way of handling these cases,” says.

Nkusi notes that teachers should create an environment where students feel comfortable talking to them about their concerns.

Diana Nawatti, the head teacher and counselor at Mother Mary Complex School in Kigali, says resolving a problem as soon as it arises is the best approach.

“For example, if a student feels demeaned in class, making them feel that you care and understand what they are going through will raised their morale, and help them open up about their other challenges,” she says.

Nawatti adds that it’s important for schools to have a suggestion box where students can drop their concerns.

On the other hand, Jane Iradukunda, a mentor and a teacher at Kids Land in Kicukiro, Kigali, says if the problem is sensitive and requires privacy, engaging only the student will be a good idea.

“This approach helps the student not to feel exposed. In a situation where a student has hurt one of their colleagues, a quick action is needed to solve the problem before it escalates,” she says.

Jackline Irabagiza, a counselor at Martyrs School Remera in Kigali says trying to solve a problem caused by a rude or troublesome student can be tricky, but notes that it’s good for a teacher to keep in mind that students will change when they are shown the right way to do things.

“After action has been taken towards a student who has misbehaved, close follow up should be done to ensure they reform completely,” she says.

Irabagiza notes that different school clubs should be formed with the aim of teaching students how to be socially and academically successful.

Punishments such as manual work, cleaning the dining hall and other petty punishments are ideal for petty mistakes, she adds.

Parents’ views

Jacques Sibomana, a shop attendant and parent, says it is good if teachers keep a record of nasty incidents. Parents should also be informed and involved in disciplining a student in cases where the offences are grave, he says.

Being fair to both parties is essential, says Jeannette Batamuliza, a parent from Kigali.

“For instance, in a situation where students raise a complaint after picking up a fight, as a good teacher, listening to both parties will help in coming up with proper decision,” she says.

Many teachers also advocate the use of problem-solving and class involvement in a classroom dispute so the students can feel their opinions are heard and they can learn the value of self awareness and self reliance to solve issues or problems.

Education experts also say it is important for teachers to understand the difference between punishment and positive discipline. Positive discipline is a type of discipline that uses positive alternatives and non-violent methods to respect and reward children when they behave well and to correct any negative behavior.

Unlike punishment, positive discipline does not advocate the use of shame, ridicule, aggression or violence to correct student behavior. This type of discipline argues that students respond better to positive approaches, like choice, negotiation and discussion.

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