Principal posing as school custodian tests first form arrivals
In my life as a school principal, I have resorted from time to time to unique strategies to test the virtues of my students.
There was a time when I wore the school uniform to a parent’s day and addressed the need to understand our students. It was around the middle of last year when the unrest in schools was at its peak.
“Thank you sir, your humility has really helped my son to understand that neither the school nor the parents and teachers are against him,” a parent said during a BOG meeting.
Rather than creating tension within the school, we resorted to creating an environment where students understood their responsibility and had to follow guidelines.
I was posted to school on the outskirts of Nairobi from my village of Kakamega and I tell you, the children in the city are quite a task.
For five years, we have worked to create a link between teachers and students. Played tournaments against each other and even promoted election of student leaders over selection by teachers.
But of course we also changed the school diet to make it more appealing. I remember during my high school years in my national school in Kakamega, the principal, a renowned physics teacher in the country, used to buy us bread for a whole week when there were rumors of a planned event.
When the school’s football or rugby teams won the national tournaments and went to the East African editions, the director bought us bread for a whole weekend. There were days when we even attended half-day classes on Fridays and then the weekend started.
Entertainment, if you remember those nights watching movies at night, started Friday through Sunday.
I borrowed a sheet from my favorite principal and used some of his strategies to keep students engaged and also feeling appreciated.
But the most important thing for me was to test their virtues.
The high school students report to school accompanied by their parents in January 2018.
Above all, we encouraged them to respect junior staff. Cooks, security guards (many people call them guards, in our school they are called soldiers), secretaries, messengers and construction workers.
We also encouraged parents to help shape student behavior.
One of the signs I planted at the entrance to the school reads:
On the highest throne in the world, we still only sit on our own butts
Michel de Montaigne
Coming home a few days before Form One arrived, I saw the mail and smiled. It was absolutely necessary that I test the arrivals of the Form One.
On the day of the report, I was wearing a security guard uniform, although different from the ones we have at school.
My wife Mandy (Amanda) picked it up from a CBD store.
“I’m going trending on Twitter again on opening day,” she said with a laugh.
Along comes the new arrival (I think that’s where the trumpet is played in the movies).
I greeted the parents and welcomed them to the school while the other guards helped carry the luggage here and there.
“Young man, why is your shirt hanging down? Get in before you enter the doors,” I politely asked a student whose shirt had an admission number printed on the bottom.
I asked another to carry his own luggage rather than following the parents from behind.
While ransacking another I found a 2 liter bottle of juice, a commodity we have banned at our school and it was funny but so abominable to hear the cousin who brought him just ask me at kama mimi (shake it).
I almost asked to speak to the parent via a phone call, but saw no need to cause any drama.
You see, the Department of Education has clearly stated that students should be searched and property ransacked for illegal substances. We weren’t taking any risks.
I saw students from all walks of life showing up at school. Like the Form One which came to walk alone with only one bag. It turned out he was an orphan. We have documented his case.
A parent who threw tantrums at the door while refusing to have his student’s bag searched.
Met a majority who had no tuition. I saw students disrespecting guards and more.
Along with conducting the test that would give us some insight into where to start shaping our finishes, I also learned that being a keeper required more than security. These employees perform at their best while handling different personalities.
From directing parents where to park, to what not to allow at school, to even how to pay school fees.
“Please help me here. Queues at banks are tiring and I had to drop my student here then rush to pay,” a parent asked.
He looked jaded, burned from the heat of the scorching sun. I handed over a bottle of water which we stored at the door.
A branch of Co-op Bank Kenya in Nairobi
“His cooperative bank, mom usijali (don’t worry mum).
“Cooperative bank ni rahisi sana. We have even sent out a brochure to all parents and you can see the notices we have posted around the school to help with the tuition payment process.
“Easily pay tuition fees via MCo-opCash, M-Pesa PayBill 400222, PesaLink or to a Kwa Jirani Cooperative Agent near you, I advised him.
Some parents who even came tuition-free were helped directly at the bursary.
With Co-op Bank, when you need a loan to pay fees, you can apply for a MCo-opCash salary advance up to Ksh 500,000 with a repayment period of up to 3 months.
You can also use your Co-op VisaCard to pay for back-to-school purchases at no additional cost and enjoy discounts at select outlets.
Barely three hours after signing up for soldier duties at the gate, I was exhausted and my duties as a director were drawing me in. My assistant was overwhelmed.
I wish you had seen the look on the faces of the parents when I introduced myself as principal of the school.
“Haa, I couldn’t even remember it was you after we met last month when I came to ask for admission for my boy,” a stunned mother laughed.
“Humility is one of the key values we uphold at our school,” I replied as admissions homework began.
Back to school is so demanding I tell you.