*Schools, students, parents disagree on how vacation should be spent
By KATE HALIM
Salamotu Jibril has been looking forward to the long holidays since the begining of the last term. She was excited when her mother informed her that she would be spending her long holiday with her favourite aunt in Jos, Plateau State.
Her excitement ever since she heard the news has known no bounds. She became more accommodating to her two siblings, helped out more often with house chores without being asked. She also became more obedient to her parents, especially her mom so that she won’t for any reason change her mind.
Her friends at school were not left out of her infectious happy state as she excites them during break time with stories of her last long holiday experience with her uncle in Asaba, Delta State.
While some of her friends were truly happy for her and nursed plans to visit exciting places during the long holidays, others envied her because they knew that the long holidays would signal more lesson classes for them instead of fun and relaxation time as it was for Salamotu.
For 10-year old Favour Okonkwo, the long holiday is not welcomed with joy and thrill that most of her classmates welcomed it with. The reason is that she and her three siblings would have to attend summer lessons because their parents work Monday to Friday.
With a sad look on her face, she says that the only time she would enjoy herself would be on Saturdays and Sundays which are always packed with house chores and other less fun activities. She wished she and her siblings would have a break and truly rest or visit their relatives for a change of environment at least.
Long holidays at a glance
For many students sadly, the long holidays is no longer what it used to be.. These students will have to commence summer lessons immediately without truly enjoying the rest that they deserve. The summer school deprives them of the joys of travelling to fun places or spending the holidays with families and loved ones.
The essence of school holidays has evolved in Nigeria; from a time when children rested their brains, played among themselves, helped with chores at home to a time when they go home to more homework, holiday lessons and summer coaching barely a week or two weeks after schools officially close.
Parents speak on summer lessons
For Mrs. Patricks, the development is welcome as long as it keeps her children busy and away from trouble. She sees it as a way of having trusted individuals at school taking care of her children since she has to work with her husband to provide them with all they need financially.
‘’I even go to the length of paying some teachers extra cash to watch my children till I get back from work. That arrangement keeps my husband and I at ease. We are calm to know that teachers are caring for our children for a fee.’’
Mr. Fabian Muoka said that he is content having his children attend summer lessons because it keeps them busy. He has four boys and it is a huge task monitoring all of them at the same time. As a businessman who has a career wife, it is for their own good that their children attend these classes until they get back home.
For other parents, they claim that summer lessons are for well-to-do people who have money to spare. Mrs. Ugwu said that at this critical time in our economy, paying for summer lesson is reserved for the rich. ‘’I don’t have money to pay for summer lesson for my three children as it is now. So, they are at home with me. I am putting up with their games and hyperactivity.’’
Mr Kunle Odukoya said that given that the economy is tougher, women also need better paying jobs that are usually more time-consuming, to support their husbands. And these developments have given rise to after-school lessons and summer coaching.
‘’The teachers themselves have families to feed and the coaching brings in more money. So it is sort of a co-sustenance system. Even though I think it is wearing out the children, there is really nothing I can do about it. The world is changing; house- helps are no longer reliable, even relatives aren’t available, everybody is looking to be something better, and I completely understand.”
A parent, Mrs. Cecilia Udah is not happy with the way children are being overworked these days. She said that ‘’Holiday is a time free from work and school to rest and have a good time with family and friends. But these days many people, especially schools see the holiday period as a time to make extra income or a time for the children to continue their studies.
She added that it has made most children unhappy as they find it hard to appreciate the holiday period these days. These children are no longer allowed to rest when they should and it will affect them.
For Mr. Idowu Iyanda, ‘’having children attend summer lessons is not bad because it is to support academically weak students who need extra coaching to catch up with their mates when school resumes.’’
He added that the idea of summer lessons is not a bad one since it will help to keep children busy while their parents work, seeing that trustworthy house helps are in short supply and relatives are not readily available these days due to the economic situation in the country.
Mrs. Amaka Ukoha, whose four-year old daughter has enrolled for summer lesson, says she decided to register her daughter so as to create a balance between her academics and play life and also allow her go to work.
“I know she’s still too young to be bothered about lessons but I can’t just allow her spend the whole holiday playing as it will negatively affect her academics. Her dad has already bought her books on letters, figures, colours, shapes and rhymes but we still want her to know how to write well, which will definitely set her ahead of her peers.’’
Mrs. Kate Ezenna argued that no matter how it is presented, it is bad for students to keep going to school during their long holidays. She added that schools use the opportunity to milk parents of extra cash.
‘’Holidays should be just that, holidays; they should be used to travel and see new places, interact with family. I hope to find a way around it, schools use it to extort from parents as far as I am concerned.”
Schools state reasons
Dolapo Bankole, Executive Director of Princeton Schools, Surulere, Lagos noted that the summer holidays is a time for children to truly learn in a more relaxed atmosphere as the classes are different from what obtains during school sessions. These summer classes are mainly fun periods which include learning acts and crafts, dancing, baking and sewing.
‘’Since we believe in the total education of children, we encourage them to learn other things aside book-related stuffs which will help them become responsible adults in the future. Summer lessons help our students realize their full potential as we encourage them in whatever they are gifted in.’’
A teacher with a private school in Ojuelegba, Lagos who doesn’t want her name in print said that summer classes are less book work and more of extracurricular activities like swimming, baking, bead-making, art and craft, learning the computer and so on.
She debunked the notion that schools were using summer lessons to fleece parents of their money. ‘’Students learn a lot during summer time. It’s a time for play more than learning book-related things. Students are allowed to learn baking, sewing, bead making and painting.’’
Another proprietress who doesn’t want to be named said that the programmes they offer during summer school is mixing academics with recreation so that pupils are more relaxed.
‘’We charge more than the schools around us because we provide a variety of programmes to keep pupils excited like excursion, sports, swimming, art and craft, catering, music, Information Communication Technology (ICT); and other vocational training.’’
But many schools are not just organizing the summer school programme to provide parents with places to keep their children or make extra cash. Many are adopting it as a strategy to increase enrolment in the new session and to prevent the poaching of their pupils by rivals.
A male teacher in a private school in Aguda, Lagos, said that teachers are encouraged to give their best to attract new intakes.
“One thing about summer coaching is that every school get students who are not only their own but from other schools. The school encourages their teachers to be in attendance and give their best during lessons. I can tell you categorically that each summer coaching, we get between five and six pupils from other schools into this place,” he said.
Another teacher, who teaches Accounts in a private school in Ogba, Ikeja revealed how his teaching skills won a pupil from another school. He said the pupil enrolled for the summer in his school because of proximity to his home.
The teacher said: “When I finished the lesson, this boy asked me how I got the skill to teach in such a way that he understood perfectly. He said even though his school charges very high tuition, yet pupils do not enjoy that kind of attention from their teachers, and many of them had even started complaining.
“The next day, this boy brought his mother to our school insisting he would love to switch over to our school. His argument was that he wanted to study Accounting in the university and would therefore find me a good companion. The mother did not have a choice but to allow it because the father lives abraod.”
A private school in Ijeshatedo, Lagos, has started organizing summer schools to protect its pupil population. The school proprietress said that if they don’t engage the students during the holidays, another school might steal them with attractive activities during the long holidays.
‘’When we discovered that during the two months break, our pupils go to other schools for lessons which may be substandard making it difficult to cope with them when they resume. In other to bridge this gap, we charge between N3000 and N4000 for the exercise.’’
Children and summer school
But the students who are at the centre of this debate have mixed feelings. Some of them are quick to express their displeasure at going back to school for summer lessons while they are supposed to be resting, while others had no choice but to just go along with their parents’ decision.
For primary three pupil, Ikenna Obinwa, it is not funny that he has to go back to school so soon for holiday lessons.
He said, “I like holiday because it is time for me to watch cartoon network non-stop but I don’t really like summer coaching. My mummy says it’s for my good but I am tired, I wish she could just change her mind and allow me enjoy my holiday.”
But Ifeyinwa Okwunwanne says that she looks forward to summer lesson because it gives her the opportunity to play as much as she wants with her friends without fearing the sound of bell as it happens during school term.
‘’Summer lesson is good because I get to see my friends and we play a lot. The teachers just teach us for two hours and we play for the remaining two hours till we are tired. Adults don’t allow us play as we like at home. My mother keeps screaming at us not to scatter the house or break things but at school, we are free to play as much as we want.”
Gbemi John, a junior secondary school student who attends a schools in Mafoluku, Oshodi, Lagos said that she enjoys the summer lessons because there are no home work.
“Since there is no homework to tackle, I think there is more time to get to understand and improve. Summer lessons can give you the opportunity to make significant changes to enhance your academic performance. My challenge so far has been on maths, English and Biology and since I started this coaching I think they are becoming clearer to me,” she said.
Uche Orakwe, a Primary five pupil of Rising Stars Schools, Lagos, said he doesn’t enjoy summer lessons because he loves to play with his friends from other schools during the holidays.
‘’I do not like summer coaching because I believe the holiday is meant for resting. I can do my revision at home.”
According to a clinical psychologist, Patricia Chiegboka, holidays provide the perfect opportunity for children to catch up on sleep. Sleep deprivation through school stress can lead to poor mental performance and even illness.
She said: ‘’Many parents need to know that when children are not allowed to rest like they should, the repair and renewal of their bodies that is supposed to take place for renewed energy will not be achieved.’’
Chiegboka added that sleep is also important for children’s immune system that is the part of the body that is responsible for fighting infection. But when children are not allowed to rest, their system becomes weak to fight off illnesses.
A medical doctor, Dr. Gabriel Omonaiye said that holidays have positive effects on children if truly observed. The good effects of holidays are resting of the body and mind, refreshing of emotions, enhancement of creativity, removal of stress and connecting on a deeper level with friends and family.
Omonaiye added that holidays play a significant role in the formation of a well-rounded and balanced personality. And for children, the holiday period is observed for them to rest, relax and learn other things not related to classroom work.
He said that happiness, rejuvenation and mental stimulation are also beneficial outcomes of good holidays. So when children are denied their holidays, they may lose these advantages to some extent.
Another Psychologist, Pamela Ikedi said that parents need to understand that their children are not robots, but human beings with social, family and psychological needs. She said, ‘’Parents should know that travelling, social skills and emotional balance are also important in the upbringing and education of their children. Class work is not enough to raise well-rounded children.’’
She added that deprivation of adequate rest and relaxation could be stressful and counterproductive to the learning processes of these children who are not allowed to enjoy their holidays.
Ikedi said that some of these children who are being stuffed with school work back-to-back may suffer decreased attention span, lack of concentration, reduced assimilation as well as low understanding span.
Another doctor Gbemisola Okeya revealed that it is not all gloom for children who are made to attend summer lessons during the long holidays. She noted that since these lessons last for a month or six weeks out of their two months long holiday, they still have little time to rest, play and connect with loved ones.
‘’Low performing students will benefit from summer school as their brains are kept alert with more work. Attending summer lessons also keep some students from destructive activities. ‘’
If parents or guardians feel there is a need for summer schools for their children or wards, they should not make it take up the whole holiday period so as not to defeat their good intentions, Okeya added.