Dr. Fred Matiang’i, it’s me. Again….and yes, I never get tired. I care too much about education and the youth to get off your grill, like the young ones would say!
I warned you last year that you had fixed a leak in a house of a thousand leaks. Another leak has just burst. It has the Country shocked at the atrocity, mindlessness and impunity of Prefects at Alliance high School.
I am not.
I actually believe that there are other things that the Prefects at Alliance High and other Schools have been doing to their fellow students that are unmentionable and unprintable. I have heard and seen worse. Ever since my days in High School, I have been vehemently opposed to the prefecture system. Being young then, I just had a gut-intuitive feeling that there was something wrong with it. I did not know what. I did not have enough experiential and intellectual awareness to know what was wrong. After 37 years in School, 27 of those as a student and several hundred history, literature and cultural theory readings later, I now know what is wrong with the prefecture system and I can tell you emphatically that it is an absurdity and should be abolished.
In a Country governed by democratic principles and procedures, a Country that has been independent for 54 years and a Country with a new progressive Constitution, the prefecture system is an absurd relic of our colonial past and should have been abolished a long time ago. That this absurdity has persisted this long is a big failure of education reform and we should not be surprised at the atrocities in Alliance and other Schools perpetrated by Prefects. Like they say, it you can make people believe absurdities, you can make them commit atrocities.
The absurdity of the prefecture system has its origin in the homeguard system invented by the British Colonialists to contain and illegitimately rule over the African population. When the Colonialists stole our land and ruled us illegitimately, they needed an effective system to “manage natives” and effectively govern a disenfranchised and angry population that probably outnumbered them 10,000-1. They devised a most undemocratic, wicked and absurd method that only the British could – a system of control manned by local collaborators and traitors who worshiped the British colonial masters. They were called homeguards and chiefs.
The colonialists picked “vetted” loyalists and gave them kaptula, akalas and some silly privileges and told them they were closer to the mzungu than their black brothers and sisters. They then told them that they were the eyes of the mzungu among their people. They donated some of the illegitimate power they themselves had to these bands of African degenerates and told them to ensure there were no “kubaff” elements among their brothers and sisters who were “stirring trouble” for the mzungu. They then released those mongrels onto the people. I need not remind you that these colonial homeguards and chiefs were some of the most despicable beings this country has ever seen. They were shockingly cruel, incorrigibly corrupt, nauseatingly loyal to the colonial masters and utterly contemptuous of anyone who did not recognize their power.
Sadly, this is the system and structure of governance that was introduced in schools to enforce total control on the native student populations. In fact, Prefects would often be the sons and daughters of homeguards and chiefs. They had learnt well from their fathers. The system works exactly like I have described above. Teachers would “select” the most “royal, well-mannered, and complacent” students who do not question authority. They would give them a different tie and blazer and some other stupid privileges and tell them they were now closer to the teachers than their fellow students. They would be told that they are the eyes of the administration among the students. They are supposed to ensure that no “kubaff” elements among the students are “stirring trouble” for the administration. They are given illegitimate powers over their peers, and as absurd as it seems, they believe it. Then the brainwashed mongrels are released upon the students. And the result is what we saw at Alliance.
The transformation of normal, regular, nice boy and girls into heartless and corrupt beasts as soon as they are appointed as Prefects is shocking. The result is that Prefects’ bodies are shockingly cruel, incorrigibly corrupt, nauseatingly loyal to the school administration and utterly contemptuous of anyone who does not recognize their power. These are the illegitimate machines of control that schools have used over the last 54 years to control students. I can understand how the system survived after independence. This is explained by the fact that it is the sons of loyalist homeguards and colonial chiefs who took over the reins of independence after the “exit” of their colonial benefactors.
However, the Country fought against the colonial anti-people structures and finally got a progressive pluralist Constitution in 2010. That should have been the death of all absurd colonial anti-people structures. Unfortunately, the prefecture system has survived all this time despite the call for democratic and legitimate students’ organization and leadership. Even in Schools that have “elected” Students Governments, they still feel the need to keep the prefecture-homeguard system in one form or another.
Dr.Matiang’i, the prefecture system is evil and absurd because it is a corruption of the very basic principles of democracy, leadership and natural justice. No-one has the right to govern another one without that others consent – Period. Subsequently, everyone has a duty to disobey illegitimate power structures, unfair and inhuman rules and procedures. In a democracy, the power to lead comes from the people and can never come from any other “authority”. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The absolute illegitimate power that is wielded by un-elected, un-deserving, corruptly privileged and entitled prefects over their peers is what the tragedy in Alliance High School is made off. And that is why disbanding the prefecture system in Alliance and replacing it with another one is not enough. The system is inherently corrupt and the new band of homeguards will become as cruel and incorrigible as their predecessors if not worse.
It does not end there. The prefecture system is partly the reason that even with the new Constitution, Kenya is still grappling with the issue of bad governance, lack of democracy and accountability. This is because most of our leaders – Presidents, MPs, Senators, Governors and need I add CS’s were actually Prefects. They were initiated into leadership through that absurd and corrupt system. They thus have internalized the relationship between leadership and corruption, cronyism, impunity, exploitation of the people and lawlessness.
We will never fix the problem of leadership until we stop producing home-guards in our schools who come out into the world to become the “leaders”. I couldn’t put this tragedy better than Gammzo the Standard Newspaper Cartoonist in his Saturday 4th March cartoon:
Dr. Matiang’i, do the Country and posterity a favor. Ensure that we start to produce leaders who are un-corrupted by the absurdities of the Prefecture system and who do not have a warped view of leadership and power.
Abolish the prefecture system in Schools. Now.
Replace it with mandatory democratically elected student’s governing bodies answerable to the students and who exist for the purposes of student’s organization, leadership, growth and welfare. If one wants to be a dorm governor or a games governor or a class governor or a school president or whatever leadership position, they should never be appointed by the school administration or any other authority. He/she should tell his/her peers why he/she wants to lead them. The peers should evaluate his/her proposals against any other that is equally interested. Competition of ideas is the lifeline and the purpose of democracy. If convinced, his/her peers will vote for him/her in democratic elections based on universal suffrage, and hold him/her accountable to the promises he/she made. Anything short of this is nonsense, an absurdity whose net effect would be to corrupt not just the individuals involved but the whole system of democratic leadership in the Country. If you effect this single reform in Schools, we will start to see a marked improvement of the quality of leadership this country will start to have in the next 20-30 years.
I guarantee you that if you do this, none of all the others things you are doing to reform education would have a bigger legacy than this, and none would affect posterity and its leadership deeper, longer and more positively. If you had only one chance to do that one thing that will have the biggest impact in this country for the longest time, this must be it.
Caveat Emptor: Do not listen when the Ministry mandarins, Principals, BoMs and other busybodies tell you this is impossible. Remember that 85% of them were Prefects – please read homeguards. It is not only possible, it is the barest minimum that we can do to start institutionalizing the principles of democracy and people-accountable leadership that is lacking in this country.
The atrocities at Alliance High School are just a tip of the iceberg Bwana CS. It is the result of one of the most absurd and corrupted “leadership” systems ever devised by the ever so cynical and racist British Empire. The atrocities of the system then are well documented. Imported to the Schools for purposes of control, it has created the most absurd and corrupted prefecture system. The result is the atrocities at Alliance and those yet unspoken of elsewhere. If you can make people believe an absurdity, you can make them commit atrocities. Dr.Matiang’i stop this absurdity, fix another leak.
You will hear from me when the next leak bursts…
Prof. Michael Wainaina.