The Hidden Pain Behind Students’ Suspensions and Expulsions


Google “UON suspension” and you will get plenty of information on the recent strike that led to the suspension of University of Nairobi students, videos of the riots, reactions of Kenyan citizens as well as what the VC of the University had to say about the incident. However, this information fails to explore some major aspects of suspension and expulsion-What comes after the suspension? What happens when the student returns home? How does the student deal with the circumstances they find themselves in? How does the parent(s) of the student react?  Basically, what happens next?

The same events went down at the Machakos University College which was shut down after a students’ strike over recent elections. Kenyatta University students also recently went on strike. These strikes are not exclusive to universities. In high schools, the 2015 wave of school strikes saw the shutting down of Kinase Boys, Stephjoy Girls, Masaii Girls, Narok Boys, Moi High School Kasugai…the list goes on and on. One such incident that hit Kenyan headlines the most was the burning of a dormitory in Stephjoy Boys High School; causing the death of two students and injured eleven.

When a student is suspended or expelled from a learning institution in response to a strike or any other occurrence, it leaves a parent stagnated and confused about their child’s future education and probably thinking to themselves ‘Where do I go from here?’ ‘What do I do?’

A common initial reaction to suspension or expulsion is anger. It is important for you, as a parent, to acknowledge these feelings of anger and disappointment but not to act on them at that time. This means, not yelling or screaming at your son or daughter while in that state of anger. It is important to relax and address the issue after you have calmed down-this could be the following day or in a few minutes, hours or days. This will give you ample time to think about what to say to your child in a calm and constructive way. We are reminded through Scripture that “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly” Proverbs 14: 29 (NIV). Additionally, your child, the young adult or adolescent, may also be angry and upset following the suspension or expulsion. As a parent, you also need to give your child time to calm down and reflect.

The best time to talk about it (because you must definitely address the issue) is when everyone is in a calm state. It is important to have a calm conversation with your son or daughter in order to have a clear understanding of the details of the incident that led to the suspension or expulsion-ask about what happened, and listen keenly to him or her. Alternatively, you can ask your son/daughter to write about it if they are unwilling or unable to talk about it.

Father and son conversation

During the period of suspension, it is important for you as a parent to ensure that your child is not idle, sleeping the whole day, watching movies or playing video games all day. It is not a vacation; hence, it is important to encourage them to maintain a school-like schedule such as doing homework or studying. Also helpful is to engage your child in extra-curricular activities in order to maintain a stimulating and engaging environment. In the case of expulsion, the same ought to apply,  as well as exploring available options and looking for a way forward. Furthermore, it is valuable to ensure that your child understands their actions as well as the consequences of their actions; this includes how their actions affect them and others.

During the period of suspension , it is important for you as the young adult or adolescent to take responsibility for your wrong doing and accept the consequences.  One of the obvious consequences is the suspension or expulsion; others include having to catch up with the missed school work, isolation from friends and many more. Additionally, it is important for the young adult or teenager to maintain the school-like schedule mentioned above. Moreover, you will have to accept that it will be a part of your record, and some people may judge you for that. Nevertheless, it is important to be able to accept and learn from your past actions and mistakes, avoid dwelling on the past and most importantly, to focus forward. “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.” Proverbs 4:25(NLT).

Audrey is a counselling and wellness psychologist and training expert with a passion for helping individuals and organisations attain their highest emotional and psychological health levels.

As the lead consultant at Halisi Counseling & Wellness Services, her consultancy portfolio spans a wide spectrum of sectors and includes services such as psychospiritual counselling, adolescent psychological counseling, trauma counseling, self-awareness and development and training and facilitation sessions for groups and organisations.

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Published by Audrey M. Hongo

I am a counselling and wellness psychologist and training expert with a passion for helping individuals and organisations attain their highest emotional and psychological health levels.

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