Enforcing discipline is one of the biggest challenges in every school. However, how a school deals with cases of misconduct can have an impact on the performance of the affected student and the general behavior of all students.
One school of thought calls for lenience when enforcing discipline while others insist on punitive measures depending on the case.
Patrick Ndamiyingabo is among the proponents of leniency. He says disciplinary action in schools should be lenient because harsh punishment like suspension, expulsion and or even caning, could affect a child’s performance in the long run.
Ndamiyingabo, a parent, says that these extreme forms of punishment might not necessarily correct a student’s behaviour; instead, it could worsen the situation- for example, a student could hate school, fear teachers or even drop out.
WHAT ACADEMICS SAY
Nehemiah Bacumuwenda, a curriculum specialist in charge of pedagogical norms at Rwanda Education Board, says positive discipline is one of the new government initiatives that will work better than imposing punishments that could harm and affect children’s morals, intellectually and socially.
He says that the new ‘Positive Discipline Programme’ that was implemented recently is one of the methods that will correct a student’s behaviour without imposing harsh penalties.
“It is the responsibility of both parents and teachers to use positive discipline approaches when students go wrong so that they feel free and comfortable to express their feelings about their faults,” he says.
Faustin Mutabazi, the Chief Executive Officer of the Education Bureau Consultancy based in Remera, Kigali, says that students, especially at the secondary level, tend to yearn for independence and so punishments like grounding or beating have little to no effect on their behaviour.
He adds that when the misconduct involves consumption of alcohol, drug use and risky sexual behaviour, the best way to handle is close monitoring on both the school and the parents’ part, and consulting counsellors where necessary.
Sylvia Uhirwa, a public relations admissions officer at Kepler Rwanda University, says students should be given warnings and where necessary, they should meet advisors who can guide them and talk to them about their behaviour.
“The Dean of Students might resort to expulsion as a last resort; however, it is best to think of the outcome. What will this action yield? It might do more harm than good, and create drop outs and encourage excess drinking, drug abuse and other activities that would certainly ruin one’s future.
“Universities should have soft regulations that don’t infringe on academic performance of students,” Uhirwa says.
Alex Mushumba, the head teacher at Martyrs Secondary School, says that discussions between teachers and students are an amicable way to solve conflict at school.
“Teachers should discuss with students and advise them to write apology letters where necessary. They should explain what they did wrong and the consequences of their actions, both short and long term,” he says.
STUDENTS SHARE THEIR VIEWS
Merveille Umurerwa, a student at University of Lay Adventists of Kigali, says that students should strive to be obedient as getting into trouble with school authorities will not only tarnish their reputation at school, but society in general.
James Monari, a graduate from University of Busoga, Uganda, believes that indiscipline should not go unpunished.
“Imagine if criminals were left to walk freely in society, what would be the nature of people in the world? So that’s why indiscipline should be dealt with, in different measures, ranging from warning, grounding, to suspension and counselling to expulsion,” he says.
According to the Discipline Board of Schools and Government’s report to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 2013, “Insults, expulsion, beating or other ill treatment of any kind was prohibited in Rwandan schools.”
Meanwhile, legislation also put “severe” and “excessive” corporal punishment as a prohibition as per the Penal Code of 2012 and Law No. 54 ‘Relating to the Rights and Protection of the Child’ 2011.
The aim is to establish quality standards in education for nursery, primary and secondary schools, and also states that punishment should be commensurate to the age of the child and the severity of the misconduct.