RESEARCH PAPER: An analytical focus on deviance in schools

Of late, we have had cases of learners becoming violent against their teachers in Kenya. There is a disturbing wave of violent delinquency spreading across our schools.The crisis is being underreported in this country.  The shocking development is now raising concerns among education stakeholders(Nation Team,2021).Teachers are actually being assaulted by learners in Schools.  This article explores this matter under the following sub-headings;

  1. Forms of Violence
  2. Causes of Violence
  3. Effects of Violence
  4. Solutions to Violence

Students violence against teachers can take the following forms;

  1. Physical/ Harm
  2. Spiritual
  3. Cultural
  4. Sexual
  5. Emotional
  6. Psychological

(i)  Physical Violence

It can be through corporal punishment, hitting, kicking, smacking, harming/carrying weapons or physical fighting with teachers in Schools.

(ii)  Psychological Violence

Takes place through passing, belittling or humiliating messages, threatening comments, ridiculing teachers, social exclusion or verbal exchange with teachers.

(iii)  Sexual Violence

It can be manifested through rape and sexual harassment against teachers.

(iv)Spiritual Violence

It can emanate from the students background.  It can be due to limited tolerance to diversity.

(v)  Cultural Violence

It can be attributed to the breakdown of child rearing practices and the disintegration of the family unit.  Also conflicts in the community fans cultural violence by students against teachers.

(vi)  Emotional Violence

Prevalence of stress among learners in Schools contributes to emotional violence.  This could be due to questions they raise about the quality of teaching processes in School.  It involves use of harmful words to hurt the teacher, demoralization, gossiping, name calling and total disrespect.


It is definitely normal for learners to dislike teachers.But it would be expected that by the fact that a teacher interacts freely with learners during classroom and out of class activities, then rapport is developed and the learners would understand, love and admire their teachers.

In some cases, learners believe that the teacher is not smart or a good subject authority or does not take classes seriously or is habitually unprepared.  The learner senses that the teacher is just in for money.  Then he/she resents this.  Learners need teachers who are excited about learning so as to engage them.  Other factors to blame for student violence against teachers include alcohol and other related circumstances.

Most educators and educational researchers and practitioners agree that School violence arises from a layer of causes and risk factors that include (but are not limited to);

  • Access to weapons
  • Media violence
  • Cyber abuse
  • The impact of School community and family environments
  • Personal alienation
  • Deeply held beliefs about masculinity
  • Perpetrators blaming other people

Extended School closure might have had an impact on learners’ mental health since Schools influence children’s well-being (Gachogu, 2021).

Banning of co-curricular activities which promote holistic development by enhancing students’ mental, emotional and physical health could also be responsible for learners’ violence against teachers.

Teachers might also be coping with past experiences and feelings of being exposed to Corona Virus.

Today’s children are also fragile.  This is due to permissive parenting (Onyango ,2021).  Many parents bamper their children to the extent of destroying their focus, independence and reasoning.  Hence children become aggressive and emotionally detached.

Covid-19 pandemic might have had a toll on the students’ mental health and some of them are unable to bear the pressure of resuming studies.  Some might have had a carefree environment at home and find it difficult to adjust to School rules and regulations.

  • Negative health outcomes
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Suicide
  • Depression
  • Anxiety             
  • Psychological problems
  • Fear and worry
  • Trauma for teachers
  • Young people involved in attacks may discontinue education and employment opportunities and eventually become criminals
  • Deaths
  • Loss of property
  • Disruption of learning
  • Poor teacher-learner relationship which compromised quality of educational achievements

Teachers and School administrators are at risk because they work with children who might have several criminal issues.  Teachers of all subjects, of all grade levels, and from all types of Schools are at risk of violence (Will, 2018).

Attacks on teachers can have long term ramifications.  Being attacked by a student can have serious consequences for teachers.  The attacks can have a negative impact on their job performance.  The teacher may not trust the student any longer or can even think of quitting their teaching career after attacks.


In the light of the ever- increasing number of student assaults on teachers, the education system nationwide have no choice but to start responding.  The focus should be on School wide safety protocols that protect both the staff and students from any form of violence on School grounds.

Teachers should also handle their students carefully by talking to them well, setting clear rules and limits, praising them, letting them know the teacher’s warning signs, enforcing consequences, involving them, empathizing with the learners, encouraging them/motivating them, offering effective responses, loving them, staying calm, being caring and amazing, avoiding power struggles, never ignoring  inappropriate aggression, being firm but gentle (tough learners will succumb /and developing strategies of dealing with violence.

Teachers should also seek and offer good administrative support. There should be unified support among the education community.  A School should be a place where learners and teachers feel engaged, safe, secure, supported and loved.

Learners and teachers should also take care of their mental health.  Schools must have mental health in their reopening plans. Emotional needs of learners should be addressed (increased fear and anxiety of catching the disease,that is Covid-19 Pandemic).

Teachers need protection (Onyango, 2021).  The Teachers Service Commission (T.S.C) should come up with ways of protecting teachers against attacks by students (Muthamia, 2021).

Families can have open conversations with learners and assure them it is natural to feel anxious.  They should also be helped so that they do not pick up their families stress and anxiety.  This is because parents have influence on their children.  This calls for a collective approach in offering bio-psychological guidance and support to learners.  This will go a long way to re-integrate the learners into the School programmes and facilitate smooth learning (Oketch, 2021). Teachers should also be encouraged to connect one on one with learners and be extra vigilant to identify signs of distress and pursue early intervention. Teachers should not be harsh on the students but try to help them where possible(Odhiambo & Nthiana,2021 ).

There is need to conduct a thorough investigation into every incident of violent student behavior (Will, 2018).  In so doing,threats with injury should not be taken lightly.

Teacher victimization should also be studied and publicized widely.

Restorative practices to handle student discipline (students being encouraged to take responsibility over their actions and work to correct wrong rather than zero tolerance policies.

Teacher training is key (How to de-escalate violence) through simple tactics like management of tone and demeanuor.

Schools should help learners by instilling hope rather than preparing for examinations and recovering time lost during the Covid-19 pandemic. To this end, Schools should invest in guidance and counselling services.


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Dr. Rono holds a PhD in Planning and Economics of Education from Jaramogi Oginga University of Science & Technology (JOOUST). He is currently a lecturer and Coordinator at Kenyatta University (KU), Digital School, Nairobi Regional Centre.


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