In the Central District, a father with a criminal past visited a senior secondary school and told school management that ‘Go ta a lela Okapi’ upon learning that his son had been bullied the previous day.
Many more incidents of 2022 school year would have gone unreported but there has been another shocking student indiscipline incident, this time in Maun. During a fight between male students, one combatant used a ballpoint pen as a weapon, burying a fair portion of it in his opponent’s skull. Our information is that those responding to this medical emergency managed to pull out the barrel only while the ink chamber remained firmly in place. The victim had to be rushed to the Letsholathebe Memorial Hospital.
What is even more shocking about this incident is where it happened. For the most part, it is a senior secondary student beating up or threatening to kill a teacher but in this particular case, the culprit is a Form 3 student at the Tshwaragano Junior Secondary School. How long will it be before the indiscipline engulfs primary schools because in most cases, boys mimic the conduct of their elder brothers?
The even more important question is what will happen when society in general reaches its tolerance level with student indiscipline. It used to be that pickpockets were restrained by citizens and marched to the police station. Rising incidents of pickpocketing and the accompanying violence have led to a situation in which at least one pickpocket was stoned to death. One too many Facebook feeds show videos of would-be house burglars being subjected to the most horrific forms of punishments. Facebook has enabled con men and women to swindle hapless people who, in some cases, they haven’t even met physically. One is of a young con woman who swindled a lot of people by falsely claiming that she was selling chicken innards from a Notwane poultry. In a Facebook video, a victim’s elder sister whips the con woman brutally as she orders her to return the money she stole. “Tsisa madi a ga nnake!” says the elder sister with each stroke. In a week that a cabinet minister was attacked by a gang of thugs who would later be caught on tape attacking a line of slowing cars, the Minister of Justice, Defence and Security, Kagiso Mmusi, ordered the police to “eliminate” violent criminals. A few days later, a commando elite team from the Directorate of Intelligence Services and Security (DISS) gunned down 10 robbers in a single day.
These incidents are an illustration of what society does when it reaches its tolerance level – it fights back. Male teachers have been the main targets of student indiscipline and in some cases are physically assaulted. Before the cellphone camera and penchant for sharing things online, a student attempted to “castrate” a male teacher – at least that’s what he told a disciplinary hearing following an incident in which he kicked the teacher’s leg. After the introduction of the cellphone camera, a student at Madiba Senior Secondary School in Mahalapye was caught on tape assaulting a teacher. In no way do we wish to diminish the sacrifice that members of the Botswana Defence Force have made but as things stand, a male teacher at a senior secondary school is at greater risk of getting maimed or killed than a soldier.
At some point the self-preservation in (especially male) teachers will be triggered and may possibly never again return to “rest” position. When that happens, teachers will begin defending themselves against students who attack them. You can well imagine how a fight between a physically fit 35-year old and a 17-year old will go. The Madiba teacher who was assaulted by a student is reportedly a black belt in karate. Spectacle is a huge part of retribution because it sends out a clear and unmistakable message. That was why law enforcement leaked the gruesome pictures of the some of the dead armed robbers who were gunned down by DISS operatives. The first teacher who goes toe to toe with a student who assaults him is going to want to give that student a technically efficient, prison-rules beatdown that will forever be seared in the memory of other students watching.
As regards bullying, some people are fighting back. On Facebook, there is a video of a 20-some young man assaulting a teenage boy wearing school uniform. The young man slaps the boy Will Smith-hard across the face a couple of times and at one point, executes a crude judo sweep that floors the victim. By any standard, this is assault. The back story, which someone shared in the comment board, is that the boy being assaulted is a student who had bullied the young man’s nephew the previous day. This particular assault was payback. In this and many other scenarios, the backlash will make society even more violent than it is already. The bully being assaulted would also have his own uncles, whom he would mobilise for revenge – which in turn would provoke a series of revenge counter-attacks.
In some cases, it won’t be uncles fighting back but parents themselves. Form 5 students at one senior secondary school in the Central District decided to welcome Form 4 students (who typically start their first term late) through hazing. The hazing took the form of collecting a P2 “tax” from each boy inside the communal toilets, which were temporarily serving as tax-collection office. Those who were unable to pay were assaulted. Generally, robbery has become commonplace at senior secondary schools. There is a video in which a male student is brutally assaulted because he didn’t bring a top-of-the-range iPhone that the bullies had told him to bring the day before the assault.
On learning that his son had been made to pay P2 tax at the school in question, a father visited the school and told management that under no circumstances was any student going to bully his son. If that happened, he vowed, he would meet up with the bullies outside school, in the streets and he wouldn’t hesitate to use his knife.
“Go ta a lela Okapi,” he said in Setswana, meaning that an Okapi jack knife will work overtime.
This was not an idle threat. This father has a criminal past, a past in which he used an Okapi knife countless times and in some instances, went to prison for it. He may be retired now but retains a skillset that he would have no compunction using to protect his family.
The backlash in question is also happening in South Africa – where Botswana historically gets cues from. An organisation called Soweto Parliament has taken it upon itself to rid schools of violence and in some cases, using over-the-top methods. This is another very clear case of society fighting back.
The solution to student indiscipline (one which the Ministry of Basic Education accepts works best) is corporal punishment. However, its administration is frowned upon by westerners who don’t have to live with the consequences of children who know everything about their rights and nothing about their responsibilities.