Striking the balance between humanity and business in school matters

By Jane Babirye
On 27 October 2023 at 10:16

Schools, as educational institutions, play a pivotal role in shaping the future of our society. They are tasked not only with imparting knowledge but also with instilling values and nurturing the next generation of leaders.

However, there are moments when school administrators find themselves at a crossroads, torn between being human-centred and business-oriented.

This month, two instances happened in Ugandan schools that made me question the humanity of school administrators while at the same time I tried understanding where the school administration was coming from.

At Ntare Secondary School, the entire classroom of S.6 students was suspended for allegedly; “deliberately destroying school property including recently installed school CCTV cameras”.

Similarly, the management of Progressive Secondary School in Kitintale attempted to prevent five students from sitting for their S.4 exams because they had not paid their school fees.

In Uganda, secondary school is divided into two levels: Ordinary Level (O Level), which lasts four years (S.1 to S.4), and Advanced Level (A Level), which lasts two years (S.5 and S.6).

S.4 and S.6 represent the end of either level, requiring students to sit for National exams, after which they are handed certificates that allow them to continue their study or even enter the workforce.

This criterion reflects how delicate the two instances were, presenting the question of whether to be human-centred or business-centred.

From the student’s standpoint, the decision to strike or an inability to pay school fees is not merely an act of defiance but often a desperate cry for attention.

In many cases, it is a manifestation of deep-seated issues within the education system; issues such as unaffordable tuition, inadequate facilities, or a lack of responsive governance, hence engaging in strikes may be the only means for them to be heard and have their concerns addressed.

A human-centred approach emphasises empathy, equity, and the general well-being of students, thus school administrators must recognize that financial challenges can impair a student’s capacity to pay on time in the case of unpaid fees.

Similarly, when dealing with student strikes that cause property damage, administrators must understand the underlying causes of the protest, acknowledge students’ voices and concerns, and encourage open dialogue to address grievances constructively rather than issuing outright suspensions.

On the other hand, a business oriented approach prioritises budgetary prudence, discipline, and the school’s long-term sustainability whereby unpaid tuition can put a strain on the school’s finances, making it difficult to provide excellent education and necessary amenities.

Uniformly, student strikes that cause property damage necessitate discipline in order to deter similar behaviour in the future. Suspension acts as a deterrent, delivering a clear message that damaging behaviour will not be accepted.

The challenge for school administrators then is striking the right balance between the two approaches, which entails taking a nuanced perspective that takes into account the individual circumstances surrounding each case.

In these two scenarios, it means differentiating between students who genuinely cannot afford school fees and those who are intentionally delinquent.

It also entails understanding the root causes of student strikes, addressing underlying issues, and implementing disciplinary measures when necessary.

By finding this equilibrium, schools can uphold their responsibility to provide quality education while acknowledging the individual needs and rights of their students.

The entire classroom of S.6 students at Ntare Secondary School was recently suspended for allegedly destroying school property including CCTV cameras.