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School CP - June 2005
The Monitor, Kampala, 5 June 2005
Should Prefects Punish?
By James W. Nnusu
The argument should not be about whether prefects should or should not be authorised to punish fellow students but rather how they administer the punishments if they are given the authority.
It is prep time and students are busy reading their books in preparation for the beginning of term exams. But not everyone is as studious. There is a group of young boys in one of the classes busy discussing the Arsenal Vs Man U match that took place the previous weekend.
It is then that the prefect on duty passes by and hears the noise the boys are making. On entering the classroom, he calls the boys out and tells them to lie down in front of the class.
Three of them obey the prefect but one stubbornly refuses. The prefect then tells the three obedient boys to cane each other with two strokes of the cane and then go back to their seats. After they are done with that, he turns to the boy, who obstinately refused to lie down and expects to get support from the rest of the peers who are seated watching.
No sooner does he open his mouth to start arguing with the prefect than he receives a stinging slap from him (the prefect) that sends him staggering into the nearby desks.
As he gains momentum, he receives another on the other cheek and he is told to go back and sit amidst lots of laughter from the students in the class.
One can almost conclude that this prefect slapped the student because he felt undermined in the presence of other students.
Many such incidences occur in schools and the school administration does not usually get to know of them. One would then inquire as to how safe the students are from these kinds of acts.
A prefect according to the dictionary is [usually] an older student who is given some authority over younger students with some responsibilities and privileges.
In a number of schools, teachers give these prefects the authority to punish their fellow students when they are in the wrong. Despite being given this privilege though, sometimes prefects find it hard to discipline the others because the "commoners" are sometimes disobedient to the prefects as they feel they are at the same level.
According to Mr. Richard Walusimbi, the Headmaster of Mulusa Academy, Wobulenzi, prefects should not have full authority to punish their fellow students.
"In most cases, students cannot handle matters appropriately. You find that they make decisions quickly and do not take the time to analyse situations as they come up," he says.
"The majority of the students throughout the country lack what I would call parental guidance and in this way instead of punishing to discipline, they may end up harming their peers, which is not the reason they were given the mandate to lead their fellow students," he adds.
Mr. Richard Ssemogerere, a businessman in Kikuubo and once a prefect in Happy Hours Secondary School, Kazo, is of the same view.
"You may find that these students have a feeling of resentment towards each other and if one of them is a prefect, he will use that position to revenge," he says.
"In the end, you may find that the prefect punished with a different objective altogether and may cause serious harm to the student, which may not be intended," adds Ssemogerere.
Vincent Asiimwe, an entertainment prefect in St. Mary's Kitende, agrees with Ssemogerere.
"I would presume that in any case what brought us to school is studying and not superiority over fellow students.
"In any case if any students go astray in their conduct, just guide them or if you feel you cannot handle it, then leave it to the teachers," says Asiimwe.
As a parent, Ms Rebekah Namulondo says she would not accept for her child to be punished by a fellow child.
But there are others who have a different argument.
Mr Yahya Kitwe, a student at Makerere University and once a prefect in Kawempe Muslim Secondary School says that when he was in school, a student was given the appropriate authority to handle simple cases and administer the necessary punishment.
"Prefects should have the authority to punish students. There are cases when you cannot take a simple case to the teacher and in any case the teacher would refer to this as incompetence.
"As a prefect I did not to want to punish students. In fact I only punished two students during my reign as a prefect, but then some students do provoke you because you are a fellow student and they think you can't do any thing.
"So you end up punishing them. In that case, it wouldn't be good for a student to punish a fellow student," says Kitwe.
Kirabo Elizabeth, a prefect in Kibuli Secondary School perhaps sums it up well.
Says Kirabo: "I would not see any problem with giving prefects the authority to punish their peers in cases of indiscipline, only if they are given limitations of their punishments".
She says the argument should not be about whether prefects should or should not be authorised to punish fellow students. What matters is how they administer the punishments if they are given the authority.
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