TEACHER'S MIND : We should endeavour to discipline before expelling

I sometimes think that the biggest shock of my life would be if the Allan Brian Ssenyonga of 2010 magically met with the Allan Brian Ssenyonga of 1996-98 along the street. A close look at these two people reveals a disturbingly contrasting picture.

I sometimes think that the biggest shock of my life would be if the Allan Brian Ssenyonga of 2010 magically met with the Allan Brian Ssenyonga of 1996-98 along the street. A close look at these two people reveals a disturbingly contrasting picture.

Very few people would ever guess that the same guy of 1996 could morph into the current me.

As an ‘O’ level student at Busoga College Mwiri (Uganda), I constantly proved to be very non-conformist and a pain to the authorities. Almost every time some students were caught in the wrong, I was either one of them or the one who had somehow escaped arrest.

I dodged classes, prayers, and communal work and did all sorts of bad things that a careless adolescent student could think of.

The teachers were always after me and my mother was so furious each time she heard of my unbecoming behaviour. Like a soldier with war tales and scars, I left the school having written a dozen apology letters, statements (after breaking school rules), served so many punishments and had been suspended twice.

In 1998, the school authorities felt I had done all the punishments they had in mind and decided to offer me an ‘internal suspension with hard labour’. It was the first of its kind in the school’s history and harsh as it was, it was simply an alternative to an expulsion.

It is still hard to believe that with all my brushes with the law, I left the school without an expulsion. I believe the school’s philosophy was that of educating and disciplining instead of expelling students just for the sake.

My stubbornness really stretched the patience of my teachers but not once did it threaten their determination to make me a better person.

A school is an environment that is meant to instil values that help students to become a better citizen.

Unfortunately, I have noticed that quite a number of schools in Rwanda do not have the appropriate disciplinary mechanisms to make students better people. With this in absence, they quickly resort to expelling hundreds of students each end of term or academic year.

This certainly denies the students a chance to reform and instead they move to another school which unknowingly welcomes them without knowing their behavioural deficiencies.

What all this means is that instead of a bad student being helped to change in behaviour, they are simply helped to change schools!

What is the purpose of a school if it cannot discipline its own students? Teachers are supposed to be able to not only pass on academic knowledge but also preferred behavioural practices that make one a better person.

Even outside school, most countries’ laws are softer on first offenders and not everyone who does wrong is given life imprisonment or a death sentence.

As a teacher, I understand that some students really go off track and turn into very bad influence to others, setting the ground for an expulsion. However for many other cases, expulsions should never be the first option.

We should always try our best to instil discipline in these young minds instead of condemning them to an immediate expulsion.

And by disciplining, I am not talking about beating the students. This is, after all, not even acceptable in our school system. Students can be disciplined by allocating them lighter punishments like cleaning the school premises or even counselling them about the need to reform.

If the prisoners in the infamous ‘1930’ prison in Kigali can be allowed to do community work instead of being hanged then why should we rush to expel adolescents who go against school rules?

I really doubt whether I would be where I am today if my school had not bothered to discipline me. Next week I will expound on this subject.

ssenyonga@gmail.com

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