Recent events at Goodhope Senior Secondary have once again propelled the issue of student ill-discipline into the national discourse.
The school, famous for a water crisis that has led to frequent closures over the years, has become the poster child of ill-discipline within the public education system, as most recently demonstrated by an astonishing attack by male students against teachers.
The students in question were enraged after being censured for infiltrating the girls hostels and engaging in sexual activities.
So brazen have some of these students become in their delinquency that even the act of being caught by a teacher only serves to enrage them into violence. In that particular case, which involved the stoning of teachers, the school had to shut down temporarily, with law enforcement called in.
Elsewhere in our issue, we report on the latest crisis at Goodhope Senior, where the boys’ hostel nearly burnt down after 14 mattresses were set alight, in an apparent act of arson by male students.
Authorities in the region have reasons aplenty for the breakdown in discipline. The 1,800 students come from starkly different cultures and incomes, where some, with wealthy parents in Jwaneng, are able to indulge vices such as drugs and alcohol, while others from certain cultures, see nothing wrong with sexual escapades. The existence of a school of sporting excellence also means that some students care little about academia or the rigour and discipline that is associated with classwork and studies.
Thus, the problem and its causes are known. What is lacking is the solution and this has not been for lack of trying by authorities in the area. Brave teachers and administrators have attempted to crack down on the unruliness, even bringing in law enforcement, but recent events show that these, at best, are stop-gap measures.
It takes a village to raise a child and Goodhope Senior is desperately in need of a more holistic approach involving parents and community leaders.
It is from within the community that students are sourcing drugs and alcohol and it is also to the community that truant students are escaping to and further corrupting themselves.
Education leaders need to call a multi-sectoral caucus in the village, including traditional leaders, customary court officials and local law enforcement as well as parents, to map out a strategy to tackle the crisis at the school.
All hands need to be on deck to effect measures and oversight that make disobedience unattractive to students. Other unruly students across the country are closely watching Goodhope and will no doubt take their cue from whatever the outcome of the latest crisis is.
An effective response could prove the impetus sorely needed by other equally long-suffering authorities in schools across the country.
“Discipline and united action are the real source of strength for the nation”
- Lal Bahadur Shastri