Nearly every year, there is an outbreak of students burning dormitories or other school facilities. Often, it is a reaction to a rule they are trying to oppose or a demand for something they believe, is their right. A school environment is usually complex, considering the number of backgrounds compounded into one. It is a difficult task for the teachers to manage, control, and guide all the students as compassionately as is needed. The upbringings and the student’s own moral compass make it challenging.
This is to say that there is a lot that makes it difficult to be more than just a teacher, in a school environment. However, while abolishing boarding schools might be a solution to the fire rampage, it can create a whole new dynamic of problems that we are not ready to deal with as a country. The government recently upgraded county schools to national schools, diversifying the location of what are generally termed to be ‘good schools.’ That has in no way, changed the performances of these schools or improved the facilities even though progress is underway for some schools.
For students from remote or marginalized areas, their dreams of getting a better life is highly banked on the kind of high school they attend. Abolishing boarding schools means that these students will have no choice but to go to a local school close to home for ease of commute. With the track record of the poor performance and lack of resources, students are unlikely to achieve their goals of going to colleges or campuses to pursue their dream careers.
In addition, home environments are not always the best for school going children. Every home has a certain requirement of kids, and being at home means that they will be involved in chores. While some families might find it easy to balance for a student to study and help out around the house, others might have the burden of taking care of the family, entirely fall on them. For poverty-stricken areas, the older children might be tasked with raising the younger kids. This means that they are fully distracted from their studies, which will continue the cycle and trend of poverty.
Moreover, going to school within the same locality in which one grew up is a barrier. It becomes an impediment to exposure to different cultures, which in the larger sense, might be an impediment to achieving national cohesion. As it is, there is a lot of misunderstanding among communities. A lot of bias and prejudice has been dissolved through these interactions in high school.
The reasons why boarding schools will remain pertinent, is because students studying in different counties do not have to worry about accommodation or their general safety. While the indiscipline cases is alarming, abolishing boarding schools might avert the fires but not the root of the issues that lead the students to reacting the way they do.
There is a lot of work to be done by parents, teachers and other stakeholders to ensure that students are disciplined and dedicated to their education. A lot of it filters down families and the children’s upbringing. That will leave the teachers with the task of reinforcing discipline, which will make the work a lot easier for teachers. However, depriving other students who really need the good education because of a few students who have no capacity to appreciate what they have, is unfortunate.
This is not to say that schools that perform poorly, have nor set their dormitories on fire. Far from it. it is just a bid to draw the attention to the students who really need the opportunity. I believe we should reconsider this demand for abolition of boarding schools for the sake of the students whose entire future is dependent on the system to propel them forward at every step.
About the writer
Munira Hussein was born and raised in Marsabit. She is a writer, author, editor and public speaker. Her books range from fiction short stories and poetry to academic books used in primary and secondary schools across East Africa. She is the co-author of English Literacy Textbooks for Grades 1, 2, and 3, Grade 3 English Revision Encyclopedia, Secondary English 1 and 3 for South Sudan, all by Longhorn Publishers, and Pace in Poetry, an anthology by Booklyst Press. Her short story, Powder in the Wind was shortlisted for the African Writers Award in 2018. She was shortlisted for the Writing Gender Residency by Goethe Institute, Kigali, 2021. She aspires to connect, educate and inspire humanity through her writing. Her books, Unfit for Society and A Curve of Darkness are available at the Library of Congress and on Amazon.