Cumberland High sees positive changes
Cumberland High School was plagued by some serious challenges in previous years – lateness, irregular attendance, possession of weapons, uniform irregularities, gang-like behaviour, gambling, extortion, frequent fights, absence from class, and conflict management. This is now seeing a positive change.
Principal of the Cumberland High School Darien Henry is reporting that there is a wind of change at the institution and that many of the issues that existed before have decreased significantly or are no longer in existence.
“That is no longer our prevailing reality,” he said, adding that the transformation and consistent reformation is a key feature of the school’s rebranding programme, which was activated when he took up office in September 2017.
“There is a new ethos and culture of discipline, respect, punctuality, and care that we are infusing in all programmes, relationships, and activities; this, as we strive to make Cumberland High School the TVET Centre of Excellence,” he remarked. The school’s administration is determined, he added, to facilitate an environment where students and teachers feel safe, happy and where student-centred learning is encouraged. For him, “a child-friendly school is a learning institution that places holistic attention on students’ personal and social development that will result in them reaching their full potential while becoming productive citizens of society. It is one in which students care for and respect each other.”
Speaking specifically to the implementation of a behavioural management programme at the school, ENDS (Engage, Discuss and Strategise), brainchild of Robert Mugabe who is one of the school’s deans of discipline.
The programme began in October 2018, and according to Mugabe, the name and concept, ENDS, ties in with the colloquial reference and application. It is a child-friendly space located on the school’s campus where students can meet with him and share openly about anything that may be affecting them.
Mugabe said that this platform is also used as a space where students are counselled about negative behaviours and encouraged to make the right decisions and do what is right. “I have been using my former intelligence training and experience to reason with the indisciplined students and I use my own experiences and knowledge to motivate them to move society labels and strive for excellence,” he said.
Mugabe said that in addition to the interactions on the ENDS, severe cases are referred to the guidance counsellor and principal. In instances where abuse is involved, a case file is generated, which includes the statements of students (offenders and witnesses), recommendations from the dean of discipline. This is then brought to the attention of the principal, who approves the recommendations that are deemed fitting and that would lead to the rehabilitation of the student offender. He noted that for cases of abuse and gambling, students are sometimes recommended to participate in the sessions held by Rise Life Management Services and the Restorative Justice Programme of the Ministry of Justice.
Child friendly approach
With the institutionalisation of the ENDS, the infusion of child-friendly approaches, and other behaviour-management programmes such as the Positive Behaviour Intervention and Supports (PBIS), the school has seen a drastic reduction in indiscipline, fights, possession of weapons, and gambling. Both principal and the dean of discipline have agreed that there has been an 85% reduction in the offences that were taking place regularly on the school’s campus and in its environs. According to the principal, there is an improvement in discipline, reduction in the possession of offensive weapons, reduced number of suspensions, students are highly motivated, and there is better appreciation for school and learning.
“Transformation is, indeed, taking place in the school; but I am more so pleased about the impact that we are having on the development of children that are in our care,” Mugabe said. For him, this is what a child-friendly school environment should foster. It goes beyond the teaching and learning and experiences and is one that focuses on the development of the whole child. Critical to this, he added, is the fact that the school’s administration strives to create an environment where students feel empowered to learn, better themselves, and effectively participate in their educational pursuits.
Mugabe noted that the principal ensures that students are greeted each morning, and this simple act has had a very profound impact so much so that students have expressed a deep love for their school and the principal.
He lauded the ministry for its involvement in the fencing of the compound and the installation of 16 cameras through a partnership with USAID. This, he said, has helped with the monitoring and management of the students, and he added that it has enhanced the security and safety of the school.
Established in 2000 as a grade three public educational institution, the Cumberland High School has a population of 978 students and 87 staff members who are committed to realise its mantra of excellence. The school has been striving to develop an annual cadre of students who are effectively prepared and ready to transition to the next phase of their academic journey; students who are self-aware, self-driven, and ready to become innovators and productive global citizens.