Students will continue to strike if not treated as stakeholders

It is important to understand that in the new millennia, students are not subordinates, but key stakeholders in the education system. The persistent condescending attitude towards students in Uganda is very problematic. In fact, it is thwarting growth and to a greater extent, lowering the quality of our education.
School strikes, demonstrations, and all forms of civil resistance in our schools confirm that the education system itself is repressive. Strikes and demonstrations are merely a response to this objectionable colonial domination that typifies life in our public institutions.

The Red Pepper of April 1, reported that Prof Mondo Kagonyera, the Chancellor of Makerere University, aised employers not to hire students who participate in strikes because such students are undisciplined. This speech was delivered at the 12th graduation ceremony of Makerere Business Institute at Kikoni, Kampala.
I agree with Prof Kagonyera that strikes may lead to destruction of resources, bringing huge setback to private and public investments. However, the good professor needs to be reminded that strikes are never intended course of action for students to resolve grievances. Students, like all other citizens, have found themselves facing difficult times, bad governance, repressive university policies, and alienation, such that strikes or demonstrations have become a broader social movement for mobilising efforts at confronting these oppressive and repressive policies, and degrading human conditions.

It is not that I support or promote the culture of strikes. Already, strikes in Uganda have found a life of their own among the disgruntled. More-so, it is ingrained in the perceptions of the managers of our affairs who refuse to recognise that those they manage are developmental partners, not subordinates.
Students are stakeholders in school administration and day-to-day management of schools. In most cases, they are treated as recipients of education services and denied decision-making. When you investigate the reasons for most strikes in Ugandan schools, you will find some disturbing trends of radical exclusionism.
For example, in October 2014, pupils from Ngora School for the Blind went on strike in protest of their poor living conditions and horrible foods. A July, 2013, story in the Daily Monitor titled: “What is fueling school strikes in Uganda” provides insight into various school strikes.

The bottom line is that our education institutions are the foundation of the culture of oppression, repression and impunity. The school system has failed to treat students as stakeholders, contrary to the recommendation in 1992 White Paper on Education, which recommended that students be given equal space and place at all levels of decision making.
The school system is still transmitting totalitarianism. We forget that such systems were successful when access to information was a privilege for a few educated people. Public administration was then defined by control over information, something which is impossible with the aent of globalisation, internet and social media!

Rampant strikes are a malfunction of the education system as a whole. Unless students are treated as equal stakeholders in the system, they will continue to feel alienated by the system. Their roles in strikes should never determine their prospects in an empowering employment environment which promotes innovation, partnerships and transcendence.

Mr Komakech is a social critic and political analyst based in Toronto, Canada.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor


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