ALCOHOL and drug abuse among pupils seem to be on the increase, compromising discipline at schools and posing major health problems with an increased risk of injuries, violence, HIV infection and other diseases.
Educational authorities are increasingly stretched to deal with situations where pupils are implicated in serious offences sometimes bordering on the criminal.
Recently sixth-graders of a primary school in Windhoek were allegedly caught drinking alcohol on the school grounds, while a pupil of another Windhoek school faced a charge of drug dealing.
Pupils at a school in the north stabbed and threatened fellow pupils last year, and girls at a school in the Omaheke Region reportedly undressed themselves in front of a male teacher while other girls at the same school were accused of sexually molesting a fellow learner.
Alcohol abuse was almost exclusively blamed as the cause in most of these incidents. These are not isolated incidents and represent just the tip of the iceberg of indiscipline in schools.
Critics say the 'child-centred' approach embarked upon by the government after independence mean that schools have few meaningful options when faced with unruly pupils short of suspending them, with talented teachers risking their careers if they use any form of physical restraint.
The public relations department of the education ministry, however, blames a lack of involvement from "our colleagues in the media, the parents, the business people, the churches, traditional and political leaders" for the deteriorating discipline in schools.
"The ministry will not manage to discipline learners without the involvement of all role players. Before we justify that, let us question ourselves what we have done to improve this situation in our schools, community, family and society," ministerial spokesperson Romeo Muyunda said when asked whether is justifiable to say that the ministry is losing the fight against indiscipline.
He said the Education Act of 2001 under section 57 clearly stipulates in which situations a pupil can be suspended from school or a school hostel.
Asked whether the ministry provides enough psychological support to schools, Muyunda responded in the affirmative and added that "school rules are also in place, moral guidance is taught through our school curriculum."
He stressed that "corporal punishment is violation of a person's human rights and is illegal under the laws of the Republic of Namibia."