This columnist Gerald Kitabu talked to Francis Mdoe, a veteran secondary school teacher in Dar es Salaam who sheds light on degeneration of morals among secondary school students. Excerpts:
QUESTION: In recent years, there is growing indiscipline among students. What are your comments?
ANSWER: Unlike in the past, today I can say that things have fallen apart. The society and parenting methods have greatly contributed to indiscipline among students. Most undisciplined children come from parents with similar problems. The society is no longer safe.
The cultural fabric is slowly tearing apart because of aping Western culture. For example, dressing styles and the way the children speak, all reflect Western culture. However, advancement of science and technology has also contributed to the erosion of morals among students.
For example free mobiles phones, internet, TV and some unfriendly radio progammes are instilling immoral values in students’ minds. For some students, looking funny is a prestige, writing bongo fleva music is funny. They don’t know that education is key to life. And you will be surprised to note that maybe those who wrote bongo fleva in their examination papers were coming from well-to-do families.
Q: How do parents cause indiscipline?
A: I remember one incident in which a girl student who used to put on a mini-skirt was summoned for disciplinary action by the discipline master in our school. After all attempts by teachers to change her behaviour had failed, we asked her to come with her parents the next morning. Gosh! Her parent (mother) too, came with a mini-skirt! We were shocked; no teacher could believe that a parent can behave in such a manner.
Q: So what did you do with her daughter?
A: There was nothing we could help her because her own parent was encouraging her to misbehave. But later on she was suspended for sometime. We wanted her to go home and learn how to behave well.
Q: How can she behave well at home in a similar situation?
A: I understand that she would meet her mother with similar behaviour but expelling her from school for sometime could give her a lesson. It’s usually used as a negative reward for students. We expect her to reflect on the suspension and change.
Q: what is the general situation in our schools as far as discipline is concerned?
A: The situation is pathetic as the standard of discipline is deteriorating very fast. Actually, today’s school environment is not just what it used to be in the past. Very few schools are able to maintain discipline. Maybe teachers have lost that confidence and commanding voice they used to have.
May be the huge work load at school and the meagre salaries have made them concentrate more on other income-generating projects rather than taking on a major role of parental care. Maybe parents, as we have just seen, discourage teachers’ effort to disciplined students. This is debatable.
Q: But experience shows that some teachers have also used such loopholes of indiscipline among students to engage in love affairs with them. What are your views on this?
A: Nowadays, the social distance between teachers and students is almost negligible due to invasion of foreign culture. Western culture has created loopholes for some teachers to betray their profession and make love with students, others as young as their daughters. That growing immoral behaviour has gone to the extent of impregnating some students which is unethical in the school setting.
It is very difficult to control this situation because love is a secret between two people. We strongly condemn such acts and we ask students to report such cases to relevant authorities so that legal action can be taken against the perpetrators. We cannot destroy our daughters at the expense of Western culture --those spoiling them should be punished.
Q: Why is moral erosion is prevalent today compared with the past?
A: In the past, parents and guardians used to spare sometime with their children and discuss various issues related to children wellbeing education and reproductive health. Nowadays things have changed -- parents have no time at all to sit down and discuss with their children. Many would leave home early in the morning while children are still asleep and come back home too late in the night when their children had slept.
In many homes, children are taken care of by housemaids. Children talk with their parents during weekends and sometimes they don’t see eye-to-eye with the parents. This situation affects children’s growth at home and at school. Furthermore, absence of parental care leaves a lot of time for the children to engage into immoral acts because of more freedom to do everything they want without guidance.
Q: What do you think will be the future implication?
A: This situation is affecting children very much. For example, poor academic performance, early pregnancies, poor economy, incompetent leaders, lack of professionals, spread of HIV/Aids, are some of them. Parents, teachers and guardians are all involved in reversing this trend. Nowadays, some parents seem to be afraid of taking hard decisions against their children bad behaviour. Parents should know that by giving in to their children, for sure, they are not helping them.
Q: What should be done to rescue the situation?
A: All stakeholders must come together and see to it that it is their obligation to bring up a good generation; a generation that will produce disciplined and ethical leaders as charity begins at home. I call upon parents and guardians to ensure that they spare some time and talk to their children.
They should teach and educate their children good values. Teachers should also stick to their professional ethics. They should offer practical skills and make students engaged in various activities all day long so that they can’t be easily lured into immoral acts.
I think you know that an idle mind is easily lured into problems. I also call upon the government to reinstate the National Service in order to build and develop patriotism and commitment among Tanzanians.