Ayub Mohamud, center, teaches a religious education class at Eastleigh High School in Nairobi, Kenya, on March 2, 2016. Mohamud is the Muslim spiritual affairs patron, but Eastleigh High does not employ a chaplain. RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili

Kenya to add chaplains to public high schools to improve discipline

NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) Religious leaders in Kenya have welcomed a government move to recruit chaplains for all public high schools as a measure intended to improve discipline and staunch unrest.

The leaders say such a move would help promote good morals.

Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i’s announcement that the government was prepared to fund the chaplaincies was greeted warmly.

“This is a welcome move and we encourage it,” said Anglican Bishop Joseph Kagunda of Mount Kenya West Diocese.

The bishop said the presence of chaplains at two schools this past year helped reduce discipline problems.

“We have also learned that the students open up more to the chaplains than their teachers,” said Kagunda.

The chaplains will be recruited, hired and paid by the government. Kenya, which is 83 percent Christian and 11 percent Muslim, has no state religion in its Constitution.

The Teachers Service Commission, the government teachers’ employer, will vet the chaplains, alongside religious leaders.

Government officials say they will be expected to offer day–to-day pastoral care to the students and work as teachers. They are required to be 45 years old or younger.

Roman Catholic Bishop Paul Kariuki Njiru of the Embu Diocese said hiring well-trained chaplains who are pastors or priests would bear fruit.

“We have been blaming the youth, but we have not accompanied them in the development of values and virtues,” said Njiru.

Sheikh Juma Ngao, chairman of the Kenya Muslims National Advisory Council, said the service would benefit children exposed to moral decay.

“Good morals are largely missing and I think this is a right move,” said Ngao. “We need to give the students values that help them do good things.”

But the sheikh said schools with students of more than one religious group should hire two chaplains.

“This is good for the coexistence of faiths and the interfaith dialogue,” said Ngao. “They should not try to convert the students or radicalize them.”

Unrest at Kenya’s high schools’ over the years has been blamed on lax discipline, drug abuse, parents’ neglect and administrators’ high-handedness, among other factors. In 2016, a total of 483 infractions were reported, with over 200 being arson-related.

(Fredrick Nzwili is an RNS correspondent based in Nairobi)


  1. If it works I would call it an improvement as long as the minority religions get a chaplain as needed.

  2. No one dishes out sadistic disciplinary actions like a religious leader! They are by far the most creative.

  3. I agree. Unfortunately, I also know first hand the interesting punishments religious leaders think up 🙂

  4. So corporal punishment is explicitly forbidden in all religious schools of all Christian sects, right?

  5. The purpose of religion isn’t to punish people. The purpose of religion is to look at some of the most fundamental and most important questions worth asking, and trying to answer them truthfully in a way that otherwise seems unanswerable. For example, physics can’t answer what the purpose of life is, whether there was a Big Bang or the universe always existed (the answer to this question doesn’t determine whether God or gods exist or not exist, as they might be able to exist “outside of matter”) (I do believe that it seems impossible for the universe to always exist from a mathematical perspective).

    Given those answers, there follows consequences from those answers which affect practically every human thing and every human person if that answer is true. For instance, morals can be influenced by what the answer is to some of those most fundamental questions.

    What doesn’t make a religion a religion is how a particular person fails to live up to those religious standards or rules that logically follow from the answer to the fundamental questions.

    For example, I think that “corporal punishment” isn’t Christian (though I can’t guarantee or prove that “corporal punishment” is bad for every possible case, especially if it includes something like self-defense when used appropriately) because Genesis 1:27 says (and this is a fundamental verse of Christianity) that God made man and woman after His own image, to where humans have an intellect and a will. To physically punish or force someone seems to not be good in general because the will logically wants to rebel against that punishment. Yet, non-physical punishment at least is good (such as taking away a reward) if it gets one to see that one’s own decision was bad for one, regardless of whether one is punished by losing a reward (a reward doesn’t mean a need) or are not punished at all.

    So, there is tension in punishing, as there is some good in it to where not punishing misses out on that opportunity, yet one can over-punish so as to do more bad than good.

    The solution here is to get the other to see that their act was bad, and to make it their own choice to avoid that bad act, rather than be physically or coercively forced to avoid it, as then they see the other person as preventing them from a good, and they then want to distance themselves from that person, which is itself bad but appears necessary to them, as it is better to have two people who are together than are divided, assuming they are doing good and not evil in being united. Also, that person will probably still be doing that bad act, making the situation worse than with doing nothing, which is still a bad option.

    To succeed, one can just select a benefit that one gives them and not give that to them (I wouldn’t say to leave them unless reasoning warrants it), as it looks like one’s own thing. It, of course, has to be done in a reasonable way to where it doesn’t look like one hates the other. One way to do this is to first point out the problem, give them time to think, and if they still choose it, then make an appropriate action corresponding to the severity of the bad that would result by doing nothing more.

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