BEHIND THE VEIL OF our SCHOOLS PT.2

When I initially wrote the article called Behind the Veil of Private Schools, I had no idea it would resonate so well with you all that I had to write a follow-up to it. The truth of the matter is that as a country we are still impudently lagging behind in the education sector. Much of the work that has been done so far is in the form of far-fetched bills tabled by ignorant leaders. Very few schools can report of an upward trend in the development of school resources. However, even worse and more virulent, is the rot that goes on behind the iron gates of our schools.

In this second release, I will take you through a heartbreaking ordeal faced by one family due to the neglect, ignorance and downright malevolent nature of one school’s administration. This national school’s administration has almost taken this family through hell in a handbasket. Credit goes to the courageous and outspoken matriarch who remains unmoved, and emboldened by the support of the Kenyan citizenry. She has, over the years, galvanized a large group of social activists and supporters to demand justice for her daughter.

I will give you a condensed account that I have gleaned from social media and from watching interviews.

MURDER IN GATANGA

Ebbie Noelle Samuels was a student of Gatanga CCM Girls High School, whose mysterious death in her school dormitory almost three years ago is still sending shock waves in the country till date. As the police scramble to search for witnesses’ accounts, the fervent demonstrations by Ebbie’s family and friends have put this school’s inerrant leadership in the limelight.

Currently, Gatanga CCM Girls High School continues to welcome learners through its gates. But the million-dollar query remains unanswered: Are parents sending their children to a school ran by murderers, or is the #JusticeforEbbie campaign doomed in a country where inaction is the order of the day?

Ebbie Noelle Samuels

Questions, lamentations and cries over the nature of Ebbie’s mysterious death have all but been clouded by the irrelevancies of red tape, victim-blaming and public indifference. In one interview, Ebbie’s mother, Martha Wanjiro Samuels, showed her disgust at the comments on social media leveled at her and her family over Ebbie’s demise.

Meanwhile, the administration of Gatanga CCM Girls School remains muted in response. I listened keenly to Martha speak about her gone-but-not-forgotten child and you could feel that, even after three years, she is by no means vengeful. She spoke very openly about Ebbie’s religious roots and her personal relationship to God, an aspect that Martha beamed brightly about while speaking on The Lynn Ngugi Show. This gave Martha hope that her child’s death would be avenged, and not by human hands.

I believe Martha and I believe her story. I refuse to fall behind the lines of indifference because I know the kind of violence meted out in our schools is a fact hidden from parents. It is largely due to the level of blind trust placed in national schools.

VIOLENCE IS THE ORDER OF THE DAY

When we think of violence, the picture that comes to mind is that of fist-fighting and aggressive bodily harm. Rightly so. I talked more about this in my earlier release and I intend not to water it down.

However, there is another kind of violence that children in schools face. It undoubtedly inundates itself deeper than the surface of the skin. Our minds are the battlefield of our lives, and mental/emotional violence takes toll on how our minds operate. It is a latent violence that creeps into the workings of our minds and disrupts how we think, feel, behave and act. Consequently for school-going children, it is clear how such violence can ruin their prospects of leading a balanced life.

Mental and emotional violence meted out on children is latent and can go unnoticed
Mental and emotional violence is latent

While corporal punishment has been outlawed in most national schools, it has been replaced by latent mental and emotional violence. School-going children between the ages of 3-18 will likely form their attitudes and behaviors based on their environment. Their mental/emotional behaviors tend to be malleable. If the effects go unnoticed, psychiatric disorders may spawn and curtail the development of children.

Mental and emotional violence leads to lack of concentration in class, mental exhaustion, irritability and social dysfunction.

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School administrations are known to be too quick to blame the chaos and indiscipline in schools to adolescent unrest, social corruption or even religious differences. However, it is the school staff, preferably teachers, that impresses upon the children’s minds all manner of passive-aggressive behaviors.

A teacher will barely strike a student nowadays, but he or she will utter profanities and perform social exclusion to “punish” the student. See how dangerous this form of violence is! By ostracizing kids in this crude manner, they are made vulnerable to peer pressure, sexual coercion, and hazing.

Mental and emotional violence leads to lack of concentration in class, mental exhaustion, irritability and social dysfunction. Other classes of people who are notoriously known for this type of violence include rapists, narcissists and serial killers.

IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS

Talking about the ills that face our school-going children can be difficult and scary at the same time. Difficult because the hurt and pain is felt not only personally but corporately. Scary because in a country like Kenya it can go unnoticed and therefore unresolved.

In the case of Ebbie, her family and friends were kept under the wraps on anything that was going on beyond the gory gates of Gatanga CCM Girls School. Many of the national schools prohibit parents or guardians from checking the level of amenities in the schools, citing the fact that these facilities are “out of bounds”.

But, as Martha elucidated, what use is it to send your child to a school where you cannot inspect the amenities that are planned for use by your child? This, she said, is the first red flag.

What are the goals of the school? What are their priorities? How do they approach the curriculum? If a school can’t answer those questions, this is not a good sign.”

Ann and Karen Wolff, Education Consultant, Wolff Educational Services

By inspecting school amenities, parents and guardians can be assured that their children are well kept and sustained in the school. Else, why would national schools require the parents to fork out millions in fees money? The double standard has been raised even higher by these scamming national schools. Myriads of school heads in national schools have been accused of pocketing these huge sums. They have intentionally doomed institutions of learning to arrested development. Unless the upper echelons in the national education sector are called to the attention of this, then future generations may fall in the hands of an unchecked administrative system.

TALK IT OUT

Let us also be aware that the school-going children have conversations they would love to get off their chests. School is hard, I won’t lie. But it is made easier by the fact that it is a shared experience, for both the parents and children. A disobedient school-going child and a neglectful parent are a recipe for disaster.

During school breaks, I take the time to sit down with my younger brother in high school and offer an ear to his stories. Listening, I found out, is the best way to understand and to be understood. I do not just welcome in the good news but also the bad news.

school going children conversing with their parents
School is made easier because it is a shared experience

Nobody is perfect, and adolescents grow up believing that life is supposed to be. Having one-on-one and open-hearted conversations with school-going children will show them that life is not perfect. It is important they know that shit can go left sometimes (maybe a lot) to avoid unnecessary worry and angst. Additionally, get them to understand where their expectations lie in regard to society/family expectations. Assure them that it is okay not to be okay, and that it is right to report an abusive teacher.

Perhaps if parents and guardians had candid conversations with their children, it would unearth the rot in these institutions and spark the need for a positive change. Whether it’s transferring the child to a more conducive school or necessitating official reprimands to the school administrations, any action is better than inaction.

***

The family of Ebbie Noelle Samuels is still loudly and proudly demanding justice. One of their demands is the immediate overhaul of the killer administration of Gatanga CCM Girls School. If you have not checked out the official petition, click here to donate generously or share the petition widely.

You can also listen firsthand to Martha Wanjiro’s account at The Lynn Ngugi Show HERE.

Let us not rest until our children are safe and protected in our schools.

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