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Extra classes at parents’ expense



Extra classes at parents’ expense

Stakeholders: Summer school’s content, programme must be restructured 


As schools, especially private school owners concluded holiday school in readiness for resumption for a new school year, stakeholders speak on the importance of the coaching to the kids, calling for a structured exercise and school system, KAYODE OLANREWAJU reports


“My desire was to attend the holiday coaching, but there was no opportunity for me to enrol for it. I have to assist my mother to hawk pepper and other ingredients. It is from the sales I made that will be used to pay my school fees as well as to buy school materials, since there is no one to assist my mother since I lost my father two years ago.”


With these words, 13-year-old Onaolapo Morenike, a Junior Secondary School (JSS II) student in one of the private secondary schools at Alakuko area, a suburb of Lagos metropolis, narrated her predicament, as she was unable to enrol for holiday coaching like many of her peers.


According to her, going to school has been rather difficult for her and her two siblings since her mother, a petty trader, could not meet their education needs, following the death of their father, a roadside motor mechanic.


Like Onaolapo, 12-year-old Ugorji Ijeoma, a primary five pupil in a public primary school in Lagos shared a similar experience.


“For me, there is nothing like holiday lesson. As you see me, I leave home by 10a.m. every day to hawk groundnuts and walnuts to help my mother. We are six in the family and the little money my father is making from his ‘vulcanizing’ work could not really feed us, not to talk of meeting our education needs.


“It is part of the profit from what I sell, like my other sister, that we will use to buy our books and other school materials as schools open next week for new academic session,” she said.


Onaolapo and Ugorji are not alone. This is the dilemma of many children, whose parents are unable to enrol them for holiday lesson, like their other peers, who spent the last one month to attend summer school in preparation for the new academic session.


Meanwhile, summer school or holiday coaching in recent times has become the vogue in the country as parents for one reason of the other enrol their children and wards for holiday lesson, apparently to keep them away from home during the long vacation.


Despite the attention given to summer school, stakeholders are divided over the relevance of holiday coaching, thus raising fresh questions over its demerits and merits.


While some bemoaned the high fees charged by some of the school owners, the content of what the children were being taught, and described the holiday lesson as a mere rip-off of parents who have to pay heavily as the children return to school in the next few weeks for the new academic session, other said it was a better means and avenue of engaging the children profitably during the holiday and keep them away from the streets.


However, investigations by New Telegraph revealed that some high flyer private schools charged as high as N80,000 to keep the children in hostel or dormitory, while some charged as high as N400,000 for parents who could afford it to take their children and wards to countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, among others for summer holiday, where they would visit several places of interest and acquire new knowledge.

But, beyond the fees charged, ranging from N2,000 to N100,000, depending on the standard and location of the school, some stakeholders queried the rationale behind the need for summer school during the long vacation, when the children should be allowed to rest their brains after several months of real academic work and brain-tasking school work.


“Holiday lesson has its merits, at least to keep the children busy and away from streets. Though some parents argue or are insisting that children, after staying in the school for several months under strenuous academic activities and school work, should be allowed time to relax their brains and prepare well for the new school year,” a lawyer, Mr. Olaniyi Edward, said.


Reliving the memories of his school days, Edward recalled that long holiday, usually from July to October, was used to either help parents on their farms, or travel to Lagos to visit relations.


He recalled: “It was time we were happy to leave our villages for the cities, such as Lagos and Ibadan in those days. Travelling to us then was an avenue to acquire new experience as we were taken to the Bar Beach or the Airport to see how planes take off and land. It was amusing and   exciting as we would go back to relieve to our peers, who did not have such opportunity, all these.


“For the first week of resumption, it was story galore as our friends would come to us to tell them what we saw in the city. In the city we would have the opportunity to watch the television and visit uncles, cousins and other relations. We were completely cut off from our books, but that did not mean we were not doing well academically in school.


“Those who did not have the opportunity to travel during the long vacation usually felt very bad and looked like second rated citizens. The period was usually a fun time to us. Our cousins living in the cities also used that period of long holiday to visit their grandfathers or grandmothers in the village. Many of them, who had never being to the farm before would do so, where they would see yam growing and other crops which were alien to them in Lagos or Ibadan.

“During long vacations, I remember that village football clubs played matches. Boys would go hunting, while female students would help and stay with their mothers and engage in house chores.”

One beautiful thing about travelling during long vacations in those days, Edward said, was that when they were returning from their travelling, they would come back with new clothes, sandals, bags and other materials.


“We would also look fresh and ready for the new school session,” he added.


But, according to him, such narrative has long changed and disappeared as children are now enrolled in holiday schools rather than use the period to travel, as the period of holiday school.

But to some parents, rather than bringing relief to them, long vacation usually comes with another financial commitment and stress of registering the children for school lesson.


A social worker and Clinical Psychologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos, Mrs. Titilayo Tade, said the summer school meant different things to different parents.


According to her, what people refer to as summer school in this part of the world cannot in actual meaning of it be called summer school, but rather mere holiday lesson, where children are taught some class work and other activities.


Tade, who, however, insisted that it was the right thing for the children to be allowed to rest during holidays in order to function well and refresh for the new school year, said during the exercise, children, apart from normal academic work should be exposed to creative and vocational activities, as well as sporting activities with less academic work.


She said: “It all depends on the parameter for which individual school runs it. During holiday lesson some schools engage in sporting activities to develop children’s talents, while in some schools the children are exposed to creative activities, and do not base what they do during the period purely on academic activities.”


This was even as the Psychologist said holiday coaching should not be strictly classroom work or academic activities, or what the students do during school session, and challenged schools on the need to organise the holiday programme or content delivery in a way that would address the needs of the children.


While she pointed out that summer school was a good idea as it would avail the children the ample opportunity to refresh and regroup with their other peers, Tade said since many parents were busy, the children needed to be gainfully engaged during the long vacation in order not to involve in frivolous activities like using their time to watch firms, especially pornographic materials.

“There is the need to give the children time to relax, and the holiday coaching should be structured so that they would also have time to refresh in preparation for the next school year. Such activities should depend largely on what the schools do or expose the children to during the holiday coaching. They should be exposed to many creative and vocational activities such as home management, sewing, hair dressing and other crafts, as well as sporting activities and not academic work only.”


Taking a cursory look at the Nigerian society today, she hinted that there were compelling needs for parents to attend to their businesses or office work, which, according to her, keep them away from home without time for the family.


“And, based on this premise, parents should enrol these children and wards in holiday lessons at least to keep them busy and away from home, while they are at work. Given the fact that parents have to meet their business obligations, there is incontrovertible need to engage the children properly during the long vacation,” Tade added.

The proprietor and Head Teacher, Masterpiece Schools, Akera-Alakuko, Ogun State, Mr. Babatunde Atambala, said holiday coaching was actually not the best if the children were to be allowed to explore environment like travelling out of their vicinity, to Europe or America or neighbouring counties or go to their home towns or villages.


According to him, that can serve as an excursion for learning new things and acquiring first-hand information about new things.


“I think the tight schedule of parents due to economic instability pave the way for this and instead of the children staying at home all alone, sending them to holiday lessons is used to buy time as the kids also learn things that will be useful when school resumes for next school year,” he added.


But Atambala said the summer lesson was usually light so as to accommodate resting period or relaxation for the children. According to him, if well structured, the merits of holiday coaching outweigh its demerits.


Atambala said if the kids were not taken out of their environment, it was better they were enrolled in a school for holiday lesson, rather than keeping them at home playing all through without supervision and parental control.


Echoing this position, the Principal of Federal Government College (FGC), Ijanikin, Lagos, Mrs. A. A. Ibukun-Oyewole, who said holiday lesson had a lot of merits, however, listed some of the advantages to include keeping the children busy, out of trouble and proper use of their free time.


While underscoring the importance of the exercise, either to the children or the school system, she said it would help the weak students to revise and study towards improvement as they would be able to read ahead of time for the next academic session.


According to her, it also removes stress off busy parents as children have places to go; helps in continuous monitoring of children during the holidays; and while children who attend lessons are less likely to forget what taught and learnt.


She said: “Part of the merits are that it allows teachers and students the opportunity to compare the performances of learners with other students of the same age and class within and outside the school since the enrolment is not limited to the school; teachers are able to evaluate their performances and work coverage by comparing work done or covered within the school with that of other schools; and if properly organised it brings financial gains to the teachers and schools.”


Despite its merits, holiday coaching, the principal said, had its numerous disadvantages.


According to her, most times only the core subjects are taught and consequently students that need emphasis in other subjects do not really have it.


To her, not all teachers are used since not all subjects are taught which can result in bad blood if the management is poor.

“Whichever way, the children are denied the opportunity, while it has been discovered that some students fail to utilise the period wisely,” the principal added.


Contrary to the claim in many quarters that holiday lesson or coaching has great health implications or challenges on the children as they are not allowed to rest, or that many things are being put into their brains, a Professor of Community Health and Consultant Public Health Physician at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and the College of Medicine University of Lagos, Prof. Bayo Onajole, reiterated that there was no health challenge or negative health implications for the children, as, according to him, they do not lack the necessary rest required for their growth.


The children, he stressed, needed to be kept busy and should not be allowed to play truancy when at home for the long holiday. According to him, many parents purposely send their children and wards to holiday classes to keep them away from home genuinely, while some, because of the business or office schedule, take them to coaching classes in order for the children to stay away from home.


He said: “Children at that age need to be engaged since the adage says ‘devil finds work for idle hands,’ but on the other hand, there is another adage that says ‘all work without play makes Jack a dull boy.’ Here we should strike the balance.


“The children do not learn or work all the period at their respective holiday classes, even at their regular school, they still have time to play and engage in extra-curricular activities needed for their overall development. In view of this, they still have enough time to rest and play around with their colleagues or mates. So, it is good to engage the children during the long vacations.”


In the meantime, Onajole expressed the belief that if there was the opportunity for them to travel abroad, or their towns or villages, they should be allowed to do so as that would serve as learning and for them to acquire new knowledge and experience.

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