When pupils take to the street
I watched the 19 hrs news on 18th of June in awe as pupils vented their anger, burning whatever they could and blocking the road.
Kitwe boys pupils were rioting and police intervention was required to quell the protests. From a distance, one would not be faulted to assume there was a justifiable reason for this reaction. Zambia has seen such riots before in the past, mostly a reaction to teacher strikes.
This protest though was a shocker. The pupils were not happy with the school rules and the strictness they were handled with. Initially, when I heard this I was convinced I had mixed up the information given during the news.
When time, discipline and attitude are elusive
Our dear pupils preferred to report for school after 8 in the morning and were strongly opposed to the half 7 or earlier.
There is much inference one can make of this. Firstly, we must be worried about the crop of youth we are grooming. Secondly, if this continues and we have no coordinated and spirited interventions, the future is as bleak as a winter morning.
Finally, listening to some of the pupils express their grievances and coincidentally some recent assessments I have made of some teachers, the quality of education and relevant impact of our education system is a huge source of concern.
I will expand on each point.
A train off the tracks
For starters, the youth as reflected in the protesting pupils must at this stage of their lives be sharpening their discipline. This is in terms of time keeping, focus and respect.
Most of us have all been in educational institutions and know the discipline school demands. To want to report a little later raises eyebrows! This is because if we spoke to any of these youngsters, most likely we would not get any plausible reason that would win us over to their side. It could well just be a blatant reflection of rebellion and an aggressive seed of laziness. An extra hour or two in bed or outside class for more chat time than get started with learning.
This then is an indication of an attitude likely to be transferred into the professional world should this breed make it. Or worse, this is the rebellious mindset that will hit the streets of society when frustrated with the rules and discipline of school.
An urgent call for intervention
Further, if these are the warning signs of a storm brewing, then the need for intervention through guidance and character moulding is urgent.
It is not uncommon these days to see youth staggering in broad daylight or in the evening, intoxicated. It is not unusual to have youth on the wrong side of the law. It is almost normal to see youth derailed by early pregnancies, STDs/AIDS and a host of societal ills that continue to plague our country. The disillusionment is so clear.
I have on several occasions run into youth that sadden me when I decipher the choices they have made so early on in their lives. A life of weak morals, excessive alcohol intake, cigarettes, sagged slacks(jeans) and empty chats along the road as the opposite sexes whisper sweet nothings that inevitably result in broken hearts, teen pregnancies, AIDS, street kids, “one parent” children and ultimately a dysfunctional society as we see it today.
It has always been my view that our society requires a holistic and sustainable approach to defeat this cancer.
The interventions start with the home set up. What we see in parents, guardians and older folks must show us what it means to set an exemplary life in motion. However, if and when our default role models are drowning in immorality, “sugar daddy/mummy” affairs, multiple homes, children out of wedlock, divorces, domestic neglect and absent or anaemic spiritual lives, is it a wonder we see what we do in the current crop of youth?
In the absence of this strong foundation and pillar, technology has filled the void via internet, gadgets, entertainment and a host of options that are an active part of our modern youth.
The education system must also as a matter of urgency review its curricula to incorporate character moulding. Character ideally should be built in a home. This may not be the case now with children getting into school at 2 or 2 and half or being brought up by maids (perhaps relatives) because parents are pursuing busy careers and therefore absent from the home. This suggests the foundation being laid is either by the maids(or relatives) or through the education system.
Parents only have enough time to say hi to the kids after work and goodnight as the kids retire to bed.
As such, if a child is in school, the foundation will be laid there as the teacher will be a cardinal element in the child’s development. This challenges our education system to ensure part of the curriculum addresses character moulding to plant the necessary seed that will yield positive fruit as the youth swim into society.
Is the current system delivering what it should?
This brings me to my final point. The quality of education received and mode of delivery also raises a need to review its effectiveness.
I listened to two unrelated pupil interviews on the 18th and 19th of June on the news. Coincidentally, days before I had a rare glimpse of teachers, their writing and reasoning. What is the concerning attribute in both you may be asking?
Calibre. The articulation of issues, reasoning or writing pointed to questionable quality. With respect to expressing oneself, I gave the pupils the benefit of doubt because they were not interviewed in their local language. That is well understood and accepted.
However, english remains Zambia’s official language and the most probable mode of delivering lessons or lectures if you visited educational institutions. Therefore, for pupils to struggle to express themselves must trigger concern. Is it that they just failed to articulate issues but knew what they were talking about? Or could it be that perhaps that was a symptom of a challenge that loudly showed that what they were taught was also not being relayed effectively because the language had become a barrier? Assuming they are taught in english which I have no doubt they are, then how effective is the learning if they cannot even be coherent enough?
This is an area worth exploring so we are sure the right environment and delivery is made available for education to be meaningful in the lives of the youth and society’s future.
Without doubt, it also becomes imperative to assess the quality of training teachers are receiving and how impactful their end product is as they teach in classes.
If this piece is weak, we are staring disaster in its ugly face.
Where is the hope?
Not all that appears bleak means hopelessness. We make notable strides with the realisation of the daunting challenge we need to confront. That is half the battle won.
However, to defeat this common enemy, the determinant will be and is what we do about it. Our youth need help, guidance and a support environment that will guarantee sustainable intervention.
The solution(s) is not singular in approach. Rather, it is abundantly clear that the solution must be comprehensive, intertwined and concretely coordinated to be meaningful with significant impact.
It must not be isolated and rest only with teachers and the education system. It must incorporate a new approach in our homes and how we raise our children. It must extend to our society, spiritual disposition and all elements of our interwoven lives to deliberately build a more positive future. It entails all who have achieved something to hold the hands of those left behind. Those who have survived the battering of life to sail on a less crooked path leading the pack of those lost on this journey.
Idealistic it may sound. But it remains the only hope we have for us to avert a catastrophe unfolding before our eyes if we do absolutely nothing about it.
If not you and I to play a part in this, then who?