Discipline in the Kenyan schools is far different than in the United States. Teachers in the US are not allowed to use corporal punishment – in Kenya they are. Here are a few stories about student discipline at Chamasiri Secondary School…
I caught a couple of students cheating on their homework. I could have had them caned. Caning is a common discipline in Kenyan schools. At Chamasiri, a student to be caned would be brought into the teacher’s room, be told to lay face down on the floor, and receive three canes to the buttocks with the other teachers watching. Since I was the teacher in this case I would have had to do the caning. I wasn’t comfortable with that so I had the boys dig a flower bed.
A couple of boys wanted to fight each other. The deputy headmaster got wind of it and had each boy take their shirts off and sit outside in the sun until lunch time. When I saw the boys sitting here I asked the deputy headmaster why they were sitting there. He told me how they were going to fight and asked me, “Don’t you think they should take their shirts off to fight?” I laughed. I thought that was a creative discipline. Interestingly, when the lunch bell rang the rest of the classes waited in their classrooms until the boys were told they could get up and go. Apparently, it would have added insult to injury for the boys’ classmates to walk past them.
Once when I was teaching my physics class the students decided they were going to talk instead of pay attention to me. I told them to leave the classroom and do laps around the football pitch (soccer field). They didn’t leave. I was being tested – would the American teacher do something or not. I told them again to do laps. They didn’t budge. A third time they were told to do laps around the pitch (field). They got up, left the classroom and began half-heartedly running around the football pitch.
The master on duty saw that the students were ‘running’ and wanted to know what had happened. I told him and he looked at the students and said, “They are not serious.” The master on duty was implying that the students were not properly running. He took over from that point and had the students run until they ran properly at which point they could re-enter the classroom. Once I had a few students in my classroom, I began my lesson.
Students have a tea break around midmorning. It lasts about twenty minutes. One of the teachers, tired of the students returning to his class late, got a cane and gave each student a quick stroke on the back of the legs as he or she returned to class.
During one of the weeks I was mistress on duty there was a problem in the boys’ dorm during the night. It seems that some of the older boys decided to beat on some of the form one (freshman) boys. In the US we call it hazing. One of the boys was beat up quite badly. The boys who did the beatings had to go home and couldn’t return to school until their parents came with them. When they returned, each boy received a caning – I don’t know how many strokes each student received. Each boy also had to work on the school farm for a week as part of their punishment. I had to go out and check on them. They thought I would ease up on them. I refused to and told them if they had done the same thing in my country they would have been expelled.