Friday, March 03, 2017

Mr Matiang'i must resign

We are working with the school board, faith-based organisations, Old Boys Association and the Teachers’ Service Commission to ensure that matter is resolved internally.
If it is true that the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Science and Technology uttered those words, then it is possible that so long as a top-performing national school doesn't murder your child, it can get away with anything in the name of retaining a school's prestige. I continue to be amazed at the attitude we have adopted when it comes to the care, safety and wellbeing of our children.

What we have learnt about the Alliance High School is that the principal and senior members of his staff were aware that school prefects routinely and viciously assaulted fellow-students, that many of these assaults led to bodily harm, that when students required medical attention, they were denied access to their parents, and that these assaults have become a part of the traditions of the school. We have also learnt that the country's top policy-makers don't care to pursue real reforms in the basic education sector if the basis for critising the sector is founded on proven and provable allegations against top-performing national schools such as Alliance.

Many of the things that parents put their children through are no longer acceptable in light of the new knowledge that we have on child development and psychology. We now know that children socialised using violence as the principle tool almost always internalise that violence, consider it normal and deploy it to resolve life challenges. Our Constitution specifically provides for the rights of children under Article 53. One of its most specific provisions states that every child has the right to be protected from abuse, neglect, harmful cultural practices, all forms of violence, inhuman treatment and punishment, and hazardous or exploitative labour.

The Constitution also declares that one of the purposes of (the state) recognising and protecting human rights is to preserve the dignity of individuals, and this surely includes children. The violence meted on children by school prefects in Alliance include forcing them to lie on graves, physical assault occasioning grievous bodily injury, denying victims of violence the comfort and counsel of their parents, and elevating the violence to the status of a harmful cultural practice of the school. Among the principles of the basic Education Act are promoting the protection of the right of the child to protection, participation, development and survival and elimination of gender discrimination, corporal punishment or any form of cruel and inhuman treatment or torture.

The former principal of Alliance High School and the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Science and Technology have violated the principles of the Basic Education Act and, in doing so, violated the rights of all children as protected under the Constitution. But despite this, I am almost certain that there are those who will argue that Mr Matiang'i is well-meaning and that he will eventually find an acceptable solution to the crimes committed by the former principal and his underlings. No one, not parents' associations, not teachers' unions, not even the parents of the child victims in Alliance High School, or politicians with axes to grind will ask, nay demand, Mr Matiangi's resignation or the criminal prosecution of the former principal. We will accept the insane logic that a little violence is necessary for our children to "grow up", and we will leave it at that and move on.

Mr Matiang'i must be reminded that it is no longer an "internal matter" when children are brutalised in violation of the Constitution and the law; it is a criminal matter. The Director of Public Prosecutions must order the Inspector-General of Police to investigate. The victims of the violence must be offered counselling and treatment. The pubic must be told the truth. And Mr Matiang'i must resign. Bloodletting of children in the name of "initiation" and "tradition" is not a good enough excuse for the status quo to prevail or for our desire to return to status quo ante.

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