Schools should emulate Starehe Boys’ ‘Baraza’ to end unrest

Hardly a year passes than news hit the headlines that schools have experienced unrest. Be it a day school, boarding school for boys or girls or both, it has now been a custom for students to riot causing chaos, unnecessary attention and even going to an extent of burning down the school property to ashes.

The school, parents and the students all undergo losses as new constructions have to be made, fines charged for the damages caused and time wasted which could have been utilized for productive usage. What causes these frequent strikes? Are there any solutions to this unrest?

There are minute issues that cause the students to strike and at the same time, there are other big issues which when not addressed trigger the students to cause havoc. Imagine a petty issue such as ‘the tea didn’t have enough sugar’ or ‘the sleeping time should be extended by thirty minutes’ being some of the reasons why expensive constructions are brought down to ashes. These are petty issues that only petty minds would give a concern about. So they say, small things affect small minds. Will the students die if they do not live without the ‘a little more sugar’ or ‘a little more sleeping time’? At the same time, there are some big issues which call for students to take action on their own.

A boarding school where the girls or boys are sexually assaulted and molested by their own teachers or seniors, should the students not protest against such? Should they just sit back and watch the administrators stuck sums of money in their fat pockets yet the money is meant to give them a good diet? Should they just stare at the teacher who comes to class drunk or in hangovers and start physically assaulting the students? No! They have to do something lest the matter gets worse and we get a matter of a teacher murdering a student during a thorough corporal punishment.

Needless to say that I do not advocate for students to strike to the extent of burning down the school premises. No! I am totally against that. The only working solution I am with is the way Starehe Boys’ Center and School handles and manages issues that students have and might trigger unrest.

I am sure that you are going to agree with me that I have never heard of Starehe Boys’ students have unrest. This is rare as seeing a blue trouser in that school! The funny bit is that they do not have militants in the school to maintain law and order but students who are leaders. The prefects do not have that much power of giving other students beatings as punishment as observed in other schools but just physical exercise such as press ups and running as punishment. The teachers do not even give corporal punishments to the students yet it is considered one of the most disciplined schools in Kenya. The school which is turning 60 this year has never had any strike occurrence and all credits go to the school’s ‘Baraza’. This Baraza system has ensured that no unrest has been thought of in the school.

Baraza coined from Kiswahili roughly meaning ‘meeting or gathering’ is a students’ open forum where they are free to air out anything with you later being held against what they say. The school’s administrators and the students meet once per week and discuss the school’s issues openly and freely. No matter how small or big the issue might be, the student is free to speak if whatever he says is following the ‘Baraza Rules’: Saying the truth and respecting others.

The administration listens keenly on what the students have to say during the weekly barazas and in response give remarks on what issues are raised and stating the way forward. From food issues, administration issues, teaching issues, and general social issues all issues find their way to be discussed in the baraza so long as what is said or raised never finds its way out of the discussion room.

The school gets to know what is in the students’ minds and acts quickly to straighten any issue. The students are also allowed to give suggestions on anything and when considered right is followed. Through the suggestion, the school advises the administrators on how the routine will; work best for them or the way the school will be run appropriately.

I am eagerly waiting for that day when all schools will emulate the Baraza system that Starehe Boys’ Center and School follow. The school is regarded as the most disciplined in Kenya where corporal punishments are unheard of. Indiscipline in an adult is never eliminated through beatings but through civilized solutions.

Unrests in the schools will be a thing of the past if schools embrace the system Starehe Boys School use of Baraza where students air out their grievances, issues, and suggestions the audience being the administration without the fear of what they say being held against them later. Let us end school unrest.

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