Schools in Kenya have been on the receiving end from students beating teachers to destruction of property. Education CS George Magoha supports the reintroduction of caning back in school, supposedly in order to curb the growing cases of student indiscipline.
Although caning can function in the short term, there is no proof that it has beneficial consequences for children in the long term.
If anything, former Kirinyaga Senator Daniel Karaba has taught the world that reforming children is done not with caning, but by innovative continual school improvement.
This story about Senator Karaba is a good pick for any school to learn from, and it wont hurt to share it.
In the mid-1990s, Daniel Karaba was an obscure figure in the administration of secondary schools. He was keeping bits of chalk together at the Njega secondary school, which is situated east of Baricho.
A mini reshuffle of education principals in Kirinyaga earned him a transfer to the then giant of education in Kirinyaga, Kianyaga High School.
This transfer became the talk of a district which by then boasted only three constituencies: Mwea, Ndia, and Gichugu.
Francis Sigei was the Kirinyaga District Commissioner and Ishmael Chelang’a served as the Provincial Commissioner.
Castro Oloo Aringo was the education minister.
The School Reshuffle
Following Karaba’s transfer to Kianyaga school, people wondered whether he would be a good fit in the famed school.
Some parents and educational practitioners capitalized on his failure to instill discipline in a school that had a history of indiscipline anchored in frequent instances of student unrest, despite its outstanding performance.
Karaba encountered boys at Kianyaga High School with egos larger than my ears. The supremacy of the school at Kirinyaga made little demi-gods out of the students who defied caning.
Their appearance and behavior displayed a defiant attitude and this, much of the time, influenced the way teachers were treated by the boys!
The first question a form one would be asked on day one at the school was “Ukethetwe ku” (Where were you harvested, meaning where are you from).
Defying The School Status Quo
Mr. Karaba, however, did not buy in on the indiscipline he found in his new role. His mission was to make Kianyaga a school dominating the education world, and a place where future honest leaders would be molded.
To this end, he introduced changes that as your guess may have it, did not go down well with the boys!
The boys wanted to teach Karaba a lesson. After all, he was considered an outsider who had been moved from a small school.
A strike was plotted. This was around the month of June and as most of you know in June the cold weather pierces all the way to the intestines.
The fog and mist made everything invisible, including common sense.
Looming Students Strike
When word reached Karaba on a Thursday morning that students were planning to go on a strike the next day, he smiled, knowing too well what Socrates said when addressing the Greek congress: “Muthuri aikareire jungwa onaga baraya gukira kibîî kibaicete mûti igûrû” (an old man sitting on a stool has a better vision than a young boy perched on a tree).
He summoned the school matron and asked her to prepare green boiled maize (mitungo).
He also got in touch with his Kabare girls counterpart and challenged the school to a ‘debate’ to be held that Friday at exactly mid day.
The challenge was accepted. Around that time, Kianyaga was going through a transition.
The school had ditched Ngiriambu girls as their ‘sister school’ after one girl had cheated on his boyfriend with a lad from Kiamutugu.
This was then deemed to be a sinful act.
Kabare Girls Handshake
As a result, no effort was spared in wooing girls from Kabare High School for a handshake.
The negotiators from Kabare girls, I am told, agreed as long as Kianyaga would teach them how to play hockey.
This is a story for another day. Karaba was tempting fate. His calculation was that if the boys saw the girls from Kabare, and given their Kingsman fierce urgency to replace Ngiriambu girls, where common sense was lacking, reason would prevail!
No wonder Shaggy in his song ‘Strength of a woman’ wonders who created women!
It wasn’t strange to find a form four boy with beards from here to kingdom come tremble upon meeting a girl from Kabare.
Those girls, I am told, were beautiful. This is where the the word “kamacau” to reference beautiful girls was birthed.
I have my own experience with a Kamacau from Kabare, but hey, let us focus on Karaba.
The next day, Friday, at around mid-day, two buses arrived at Kianyaga high school’s compound carrying these special guests. They were directed to the school’s dining room where the ‘debate’ was to take place.
Karaba proceeded to summon all Form threes and Form Fours, directing them to the the dining room where the a bilateral negotiations were taking place.
There was a commotion as every boy wanted to be the first to reach the dining hall. With girls, you have to take every chance. Even being the first to show up.
My friend, I am told there are two things to help defeat shaitani! A beautiful woman, and boiled green maize. No sooner had the boys seen the majestic and glorious Kabare girls and green maize with an inviting aroma, than they forgot their evil plans for that night!
The boys and the girls interacted and exchanged notes, perhaps about nothing, for close to four hours.
No one remembered there was to be a strike that evening.
Jomo Kenyatta, in his book Facing Mount Kenya, calls this the power of “Urugare wa nyondo.” (the booby trap).
That day, Karaba succeeded in averting the strike by providing an alternative to the boys.
There is evidence that indiscipline sometimes results from the absence of fresh air. Karaba provided that fresh air to the boys! This man Karaba would go on to head Kagumo high school through its finest hour.