It was Thursday morning. Teachers and students of Ntare School went to class as is usual on weekdays. Being a mid-term, several students sat for tests throughout the day.
By about 5pm, it was time for games. Several students proceeded to the school playground at Kakyeka, about a kilometer from the school. Ideally, every student who goes out of the school gate between after classes and supper time is expected to have gone to the playground. However, some students take this opportunity to loiter in Mbarara town.
Although going to town or visiting relatives who live within town is allowed on Saturdays and Sundays, loitering had become too much for the school administrators to ignore. The headteacher, Mr Humphrey Ahimbisibwe, had during a Monday assembly warned students against loitering in town and vowed to punish culprits.
“The headmaster told us during the assembly that parents were ringing him complaining about some of us who were always in town instead of being in classes,” a student at the school said. But three days after the warning, students had not heeded to the warning.
Mr Ahimbisibwe and a group of teachers made a roll call to ascertain which students were in the school and at the playground. Students who were neither at school nor at the play ground, were consequently presumed to be in town. Mr Ahimbisibwe then waited at the gate for the culprits.“We could not let the students do whatever they want forever.
Those who were not at school or at the pitch were punished to deter them from going against regulations,” said a teacher who asked not to be named.But unknown to the school administration, the errant students planned a strike on Friday in defiance of the punishment.
Students grouped up after evening preps and in the wee hours of the morning vandalized glass windows of a several classrooms, dormitories and the headmaster’s office.
They went to the headmaster’s residence looking for him, but he had been tipped off about the impending attack and took to safety. The police had to be called in to quell the rioting students. Resolution: At least 240 students of Senior Four who were believed to have masterminded the strike were suspended and the school has remained under heavy police surveillance for two days. But the students insist the punishment were unfair.
A week before the strike, five students had been expelled for dodging classes. At the time of the strike 15 others were serving suspension for dodging morning preps. “Students were also not comfortable with what was going on at the school. There are many suspensions,” a student said. But parents who talked to Daily Monitor after the strike said they saw this coming because the students are not controlled.
“Discipline ‘died’ long time ago at the school. As parents we have been concerned about movements of students, it is too much. We complained but it was not solved,” said Mr Ben Muhumuza. He said students excel at the school not because they read and concentrate but because the administration admits brilliant students.
Mr Muhumuza, however, said the school should not have abruptly stopped students’ movements but phased it out gradually. “Beating students is dangerous. He (Mr Ahimbisibwe) needed to have designed a risk free means of gradually phasing out of unnecessary movements,” Mr Muhumuza, who has seen three of his sons go through the school, said.
Mr Muhumuza said beating the students coupled with their anxiety over a fall in performance in last year’s UACE exams, shattered the tranquillity that had defined the school. Ntare School has for a long time been a centre of discipline and academic excellence in western region but has since 2004 seen a down ward trend of performance.