When we talk about indiscipline in secondary schools, what immediately springs to mind is the students' non-conformity to the institutions' rules and regulations pertaining to the school uniform and expected behavioural patterns, not doing their homework, class shirking, playing truant, consuming alcoholic drinks, smoking cigarettes, being verbally and physically aggressive towards their peers and members of the staff, vandalising the school property among others. The modes of punishment stem anything from remarks in the student journals, detentions, rustications to expulsions in extreme cases.
However, these measures hardly seem to have the desired effect on curbing indiscipline in secondary schools, on the long run. If anything, cases of indiscipline are on an all-time high and some institutions in Mauritius have even resorted to having CCTVs installed within the school compound to keep an eye on the students.
So, what causes some students to continuously adopt a rebellious streak at school? There are certainly many factors ranging from boredom, lack of interest for studies, negative peer influence to social and psychological issues. In such cases, the above-mentioned methods of punishment would hardly deter the students who hold school in very low esteem. If anything, for some of them, a punishment is a badge of honour, to be worn with pride, to prove to others that they have what it takes to defy the school rules while a rustication could be interpreted as simply a break from school.
This is where community service could be considered as the missing jigsaw puzzle piece. Where traditional methods of punishment have failed, the introduction of community service could be considered as a revolutionary method to bring forth a high dose of reality to the repeatedly non-conforming students. By community service, I mean such activities as helping out in homes/orphanages, helping the authorities with protecting the environment, helping charities among many others. The list of possibilities is certainly long! Ideally, this could take place during the week-ends or span during the holidays to prevent tampering with the student's schooling and last not more than a few hours per week. These activities could act as an eye-opener about the real issues of society and simultaneously, make the student realise the value of education in life, develop a sense of responsibility and get back on the right tracks. As an encouragement, a testimonial could be awarded to the student after the completion of the community service, in recognition of his efforts to mend his/her ways.
Of course, this necessitates the active collaboration and participation of all stakeholders: the schools, parents, governmental organisations and NGOs, the local councils, the police force, psychologists among others. It should not be the concern of the schools alone. This project certainly will necessitate extensive planning, networking and coordination. The whole society will need to work as one to encourage the youngsters to value education and complete their studies. If community service could be the catalyst to bring forward a new holistic supplement to academic education, change perceptions, instill human values and empower the students, it could be tried on a pilot basis. After all, education is meant to be a life preparation, in the true sense of the term.