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Kenya bans mobile phones in schools to curb unrest
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16:54, July 23, 2008

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The Kenyan government has banned use of mobile phones in schools as a string of riots hit schools across the country.

Education Minister Sam Ongeri also ordered the removal of music systems and DVDs from school buses, among other tough measures aimed at restoring discipline in boarding schools.

He also directed schools to stop buying luxury buses with TVs and powerful music systems. The minister told the schools to hand over to police students who either organized or took part in the violence.

Already dozens of the students have been charged over unrest at boarding schools across the country. More than 50 schools have been rocked by violent strikes in the past one month.

A student died in Nairobi last weekend after students set a dormitory ablaze during protests against the school administration.

"I am banning the use of mobile phones by our students in our schools," Ongeri told Parliament late Tuesday.

The ban, which takes effect immediately, comes a day after police charged dozens of students with arson after weekend riots that left at least one student dead and several injured.

The minister had singled out political interference and school mismanagement as other causes of the chaos.

And in a bid to deal with this, Ongeri informed Parliament that the Kenya Institute of Education would be rolling out a training program for school management boards to build their capacity.

Ongeri warned that the full force of the law will be used against students who incite their colleagues. The education minister has set up a committee to probe the causes of the strikes, in which property worth millions was destroyed.

Ongeri directed all school heads and governing boards to thoroughly screen students of affected institutions, "and hand over those found culpable to the police for appropriate action".

The minister directed that students suspected to have taken part in strikes should be kept away from school until further notice.

Schools were directed to streamline and boost security to ensure students were under constant check to ward off destruction of property and lives.

The minister asked school administrators to assess damages and forward the information to the Ministry of Education headquarters.

But even as the minister was announcing the new tough measures to curb the wave of strikes and destruction, reports said Wednesday that students of one of the schools in central Kenya went on the rampage, burning a dormitory.

It was the first case of arson by seminarians since the wave of unrest started nearly a month ago and came shortly after Catholic bishops held a meeting at the same venue earlier in the morning, to take a common position on the strikes.

Politicians, parents and teachers incensed by the ongoing unrest are now calling for the reinstatement of canning as a form of discipline in schools.

"With school property being destroyed and even lives being lost the government must now act tough on discipline in schools," Tourism Minister Najib Balala said.

A Member of Parliament, David Koech, attributed the strikes to the delay by the ministry to disburse funds for free secondary education, and sought to be told the number of teachers handling guidance and counseling in schools.

Gitobu Imanyara, another lawmaker who sought the ministerial statement last week accused education minister of failing to explain the role of his docket in the mess.

Corporal punishment was banned in all learning institutions in Kenya, seven years ago.

However, protesting students complain of poor quality food and harsh rules that impede their freedom while at the boarding schools.

But some teachers blamed the ongoing unrest on tension among the students who were preparing to start mock examinations this week.

Speaking in parliament, the education minister described the spate of strikes as a matter of national concern and told MPs that his ministry had developed manuals on safety and peace in education.

They will form the basis of healing the students from the negative effects of the post-election violence that engulfed the country in January following the disputed presidential polls.

The two manuals will be part of the school curriculum, the minister said and attributed strikes in schools and educational institutions to: fear of mock examinations; weak institutional management; political and other influences; drugs and substance abuse; misuse of mobile phones; and child abuse.

Last month alone the country recorded close to 300 strikes. Within the last three days more than 20 schools have been closed countrywide.

Source:Xinhua



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