A BARBAROUS school generation with a moral code of gangsterism is what teachers are having to contend with in most urban schools as they struggle to maintain discipline without the instruments to enforce it.
The old African adage that says, ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child’ is no longer applicable as the moral fibre of communism or collectivisation that used to glue African communities together has been shredded by the need to follow global trends that are defined from the global north.
Even in schools in the countryside teachers are no longer venerated.
They are viewed just like any other villager, a commoner who no longer commands the respect of the society. And there are a number of reasons or are they theories to unpack why this is so but that is certainly not the import of this article.
Disturbing reports of indiscipline, drugs and riotous behaviour in schools such as Milton High, Founders High, Sizane High and even in church run boarding schools such Gokomere High, Mashoko High and many others where teachers fail to contain learners are evidence that something is wrong and that something has to give in.
The recent one is that which occurred at Msiteli High School in Bulawayo’s Mpopoma suburb where the police had to be called in to pacify the atmosphere.
The orgy of violence left school property destroyed and some learners injured while scaring other innocent learners. Teachers’ safety was also compromised.
That is not the only case and certainly not the last and yet there is a deliberate skirting of the debate on the education policies. The long and short of it is that there is no learning without discipline.
The policies have resulted in some of the sad developments that if ignored can easily reverse the milestone achievements in the area of education that the country has been credited with.
And one is tempted to think that the measure of success in the area of education and the excellence given the country has not been given at the back of the current generation’s standards.
And if that is so, then the country should go back to doing things right and rethink some of the policies with a view to revise them especially when their debilitating effects are so evident.
While upholding the argument that the country should not be left out in the tide of human rights, it should be stressed that rights always come with responsibility and that a right ceases to be a right when it violates other people’s rights.
If our education system and authorities choose to look aside when learners carry weapons to school to scare teachers and other learners and wear trousers in drop fashion and shout rights when they are reprimanded, then that needs to be revisited.
And if they answer back arrogantly and stubbornly to teachers when being corrected and shout rights, then our education system is not ready to be discharged from the intensive care unit that it has been confined to.
Unfortunately, it seems, society even authorities do not know how to deal with this newly found thinking that glorifies freedom ahead of discipline.
And teachers no longer have the power nor the push. They have resigned themselves to doing what they can with the few willing learners while those that show signs of misbehaviour are left to do as they please.
Teachers say they no longer care. And their carefree attitude towards learners’ behaviour should clearly be a cause for worry to level headed parents.
They blame the parents for not instilling good behaviour in their children at home but expressed concern over the disturbances experienced by some serious learners who are innocent.
“To be honest we are only affected when it is our safety under threat.
Otherwise, we have gotten used to this. The problem is that when we raise such issues the discourse changes and people start accusing teachers of wanting to beat up children. No.
We don’t enjoy beating up children, we want discipline to be enforced so that the environment is regulated not through fear but a sense of respect and responsibility on the part of both parties.
“And besides we were made into what we are through discipline both at home and at school and the same cannot be said for this generation.
The problem is with these western sponsored human rights organisations that are paid to spread American influence in Africa under the banner of democracy.
Unfortunately, all we do is to imbibe the cultures without knowing the results and when you point that out you are accused of being backward and that is sad,” said an elderly headmaster who requested anonymity.
Educator and analyst who is also a lecturer at Great Zimbabwe University Dr Gift Gwindingwe says the issue of adherence to discipline in schools, if not properly handled, is going to reverse the gains made in the sector.
He believes the country needs not to avoid the debate on some of the policies, rights and freedoms especially after they have shown that they are not well intended.
“It is a sad scenario that we are witnessing the orgies of violence in schools in Zimbabwe. It is sad when we push for freedom and rights of learners without emphasising discipline and responsibility.
It becomes a challenge to both educationists and parents and it has become so cancerous that it will difficult for us to remedy it,” said Dr Gwindingwe.
On the issue of corporal punishment he said, “The issue of corporal punishment is in itself a contested area in the country.
A section of society is saying sparing the rod spoils the child and the position is aptly evident. We are therefore saying, in as much as advocacy for human rights is plausible but it is equally detrimental to the gullible youths.
“Remember the teen stage is a stage of experiments and the youths are calculative to know that their issues are a contested area. We must therefore rethink our approach to it as a country that want to have a future responsible generation.”
He said stakeholders who were pushing for human rights should also push for human responsibility where youths should be enlightened to understand that rights come naturally if one is responsible.
“We are sacrificing our youths on the altar of freedom and human rights and that is sad. I am not comfortable with those workshops where a head and deputy, a head boy and head girl as well as SDC chair and deputy are simply told no corporal punishment at school. Such workshops are not good because they leave a gap. They do not teach responsibility.
“The policy of expulsion and exclusion should also be revisited because that has to be the last resort where we are saying where are we dumping these children to. Policy makers and educators should therefore revisit these policies and come up with mechanisms to contain errant behaviour,” said Dr Gwindingwe.
Beitbridge West legislator and deputy minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Mrs Ruth Maboyi Ncube also believes the policies need to be revisited.
“As a parent and a grandmother, I am not happy with what is happening with our youths. The idea where police have to be called to calm situations at schools should not be encouraged. Our youths need discipline but what is happening with the current generation is sad.
“Some of these rights and policies that we are adopting have a history of failure where they come from, so we need to take a stance as a country and not swallow hook line and sinker,” she said.
She said the American education system was one of the worst because of the right and freedoms in schools.
“We are not saying schools should be like prisons but at least we should ask ourselves what is it that we were doing right for the past generation that we are no longer doing with the current one.
Once we get the answer, we just work on that. We should not be ashamed of revisiting a previous position if it is not working,” she added.
President Mnangagwa recently emphasised the need for youths to abstain from drugs and to be disciplined on the occasion to commemorate the International Children’s Day in Kazungula.