‘Life is too hard’

  • Impact of excessive school pressure on children

The hustle and bustle of life does not only have its adverse effects on parents, it also affect the children. They especially the younger ones in school bear the burden of early rise, early to school and still grapple with plenty subjects in school in a straight line of about 12 hours and come back home to face another round of coaching – home lesson. For these children, life is hard! Experts put it that it affects their mental wellbeing.
Abdul is an 8-year-old Primary 4 school boy who is usually cheerful and happy. However, he is struggling to cope with the volume of home work they were expected to complete on a daily basis. His Mother, a busy medical doctor initially attempted to help him, but soon realised that she could not cope. The assignments sometimes took them 2-3 hours to complete – even with her guidance and help. So, she gave up and employed a lesson teacher to help him with the homework. Thus, Abdul would return from school at about 4.30pm, eat lunch, rest for about 30 minutes and then home lessons will start at 5.30pm. On the average, the lessons would end at about 7.30pm or 8.00pm. At which time he would have dinner, say his prayers and then retire at 9.00pm.
He gradually became withdrawn and looked pensive most days. When his mother eventually noticed, she decided to have a chat with him. ‘Abdul, I noticed you don’t look so happy these days. Is there a problem at school? Anyone or something bothering you?’ She enquired. ‘No Mum’, he replied. ‘I have nice friends and the teachers are good. It is just that life is too hard’. ‘Life is too hard? What are you thinking about and how did you come to that conclusion?’
His mother, was clearly alarmed at this stage, but struggled to act calmly, as she was determined to get to the root of the matter. She sat up straight and encouraged him to share, by wrapping her arms around him. ‘Well, I have so much homework to do every day and I feel overwhelmed. My teachers always remind us to work very hard and I am feeling under too much pressure. I hardly get to play anymore or ride my bicycle. I don’t seem to be understanding my lessons anymore, but I don’t want to disappoint you and Daddy. That’s why I said life is too hard, Mummy’. ‘Okay, Abdul. I understand now and I agree that the work load may be too much really. I want you to relax and take it easy. No homework or lessons for you today. Off you go to ride your bicycle’. Abdul’s face brightened immediately and he ran off. As he exited the building, his mother sighed and resolved to discuss the issue with his father and possibly have a word with the school teachers.

Dr. Jibril Abdulmalik, Senior Lecturer & Consultant Psychiatrist, University of Ibadan argued and explained in details that it is an unhealthy pressure from both parents and schools on the children.
A number of schools appear to have no clear understanding of early child development and developmental psychology. Thus, they ignore or may be unaware that the most important task of childhood is to play, socialise and learn at their own pace.
Instilling good habits, learning manners, building their self-esteem and confidence, learning to interact with peers and adults in a respectful and considerate manner are far more important building blocks in preschool and early to mid-primary school. The additional learning milestone is to promote their curiosity and promote learning and seeking for information as a form of adventure that opens up new information. The most important task of early education is simply to teach them to read and write. And to learn the rudiments of mathematics, while promoting their interest in other subjects as a form of exploration.
The excessive focus on children aged 4 – 10 years offering as many as 15 subjects and being pressurised to do very well on all the subjects is unhealthy. Thus, parents struggle to cope and end up employing lesson teachers.
Ultimately, the end result is that the innocent children are made to study for nearly 12 hours every single day. This is nothing but sheer wickedness and torture. Sometimes, the unhealthy pressure is from the parents: My child must graduate from the University by the age of 20 years, so he/she must skip primary 5 and 6 and go straight from Primary 4 into secondary school. Etc.
This perspective fails to take into consideration, the fact that growth is not just physical but also emotional and psychological. While some children will appear to have coped without complications, the majority will struggle to fit into a much older class, to make new friends and to blend in. They lose out on having a normal childhood and attaining normal deve lopmental milestones of maturation with their peers.
For some children, they simply fall apart, fall into bad company or turn to drugs to help them cope or feel accepted.
Schools and parents need to wake up and protect our children from unnecessary pressure that achieves nothing but useless bragging rights. Childhood is to be enjoyed, so please stop stealing it from our precious children. Let them enjoy optimal emotional wellbeing and learn, play and mature at their own pace.
Also, Oluwawemimo Adebiyi, child psychologist, therapist and counselor reacted that schools are under pressure and the pressures are directed at the innocent children. According to her, most schools are in competition among themselves, academic performances, infrastructure, co-curricular activities and of course, school parties couple with some factors that most schools are on loans from banks. All of these, put together, would definitely not work in favour of the school children. For her, the children must be allowed to PLAY because they also learn while playing. “Children are social being! And school is their major social area. The interest of children development is no longer on schools agenda. We know that the brain a child carries can carry a lot but it must be sandwiched with other interesting means of learning. Some children don’t learn effectively when it comes to cognitive learning while some learn with numeracy and others learn from vocational styles.”
Patience Osinaike, Early Years Educator/Child Abuse Advocate/Lagos Director, Image Talks Africa/Swimming Instructor/Social Entrepreneur, said, the societal values system needs to be properly put in place and children be taught right from home and in schools. She urged parents and guardians to develop close relationship with their children. Such that when these children approach puberty age and start experiencing changes in the body, sexual feelings, and other things, they are able to speak with their parents.
“The children should also be taught about their bodies and how to prevent themselves from sexual predators. Also, parents and guardians should watch people that their children are not too comfortable with. They should also develop listening ears and avoid criticising these children when they don’t feel right about someone,” she said.

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