Most school kids find it very difficult to understand why they have to return to school a few days after the long holiday. They saw the end of the 2018/2019 academic session as an opportunity to visit and play with friends as well as watch kiddies programs on television.
But the happiness was cut short as their busy parents immediately sent them back to school for summer coaching, which has gradually become a cash cow for private school owners. Parents pay huge sums for the period depending on the location of the coaching class and its programmes.
Summer, in the western world, is the hottest of the four seasons (autumn, spring, and winter). Summer school is a programme generally sponsored by a school or a private company that provides lessons and other activities during the long vacation. Experts say participation in summer schools has beneficiary effects on the academic progress of the pupils. In the developed world, the kids build memories during the period they go on picnics, trips, and other recreational activities as an avenue to enjoy themselves.
However, in Nigeria, there is no season like summer, it was adopted from long vacations. Parents spend extra cash to send their children to coaching classes where academic work continues to acquaint the kids with studies for the new session.
The proprietress of Beth-arbel Montessori School, Yenegoa, Bayelsa State, Mrs Monisola Aiyekusehin, explained: “Summer coaching is not supposed to be a time to continue the school curriculum, it is supposed to be a time for kids to relax and learn new skills. Summer coaching is a period for excitement and fun in foreign climes but in Nigeria, it is like a tough period for most parents. Most parents who are professionals and work from 8 am to 5 pm are in a dilemma on where to keep the children while they go to work.
“So, for most parents, the easy way out is to send the children to summer coaching, which is like a continuation of classroom teaching, Monday to Friday, for the most part of the holiday. This is unhealthy and counterproductive for the children. I would rather suggest they go for lessons in other vocations like music, arts, and craft, catering, sports where they can learn with fun outside academics.’’
Chief Executive of WABIO International, Mrs Ebele Enemchukwu, said: “As a child, while I was growing up, most of the other skills I developed, such as knitting, writing storybooks, making birthday cards were during such long breaks, which summer coaching has in many cases, come to replace.’’
She added that one can never know when such skills will come in handy. And this is, apart from the other intangible capacities (including confidence) being developed: “The entrepreneurs of tomorrow are probably the summer-coached children of today.
“It is a welcome development, considering the level of the disappearance of white-collar jobs. Is it not about the syllabus? What new syllabus? These children need a break sometimes from academic work.
“The volume of homework and projects my three children come home with during holiday periods can be overwhelming. We begin to pray and hope that it is not counterproductive. However, we embrace the opportunity it affords us to know how well they have done with the previous term, while also providing an opportunity to bond further with them while they learn.’’
A mother of four in Chikun, Southern Kaduna, Kaduna State, Mrs Viola Onah, described summer coaching as a necessity, especially for pupils between ages one and six, stating that kids were bound to forget whatever they learned when out of school for long:
“I had that issue with my second son. When a new term began, he asked me how to write figure 15 and I screamed. This was a boy that is good at numeracy. Summer coaching is not a means of exploitation.
‘’It does parents lots of favours. It will reduce the time of shouting by parents at home. When kids don’t go anywhere, it becomes important to check their excesses. That is where summer school comes in. They don’t even spend long hours like in a normal school setting.”
A retired teacher and career management expert, Dr Stephen Amogu, said schools in Nigeria, unfortunately, copied American and British schools without reflections. He explained that the schools being copied are in the temperate region while Nigeria is in the tropics:
“Technically, we cannot have summer in Nigeria as from July when it rains heavily in the country. Schools in Nigeria, therefore, offer ‘long vacation programmes’, not summer programmes.
“The motive for such programmes is strictly pecuniary and induced by the need to prevent parents from exploring what competing schools offer. Those schools lack career experts who can help them conceptualise and implement the right programmes for the target market.
“Pupils should engage in things that would enhance their academic orientation when on holiday and not cognitive but affective and psychomotor skills. When pupils are in school, they should be in school and when they are on vacation, they should be on vacation.’’
The educationist lamented that most pupils can only use their heads and hearts and not their hands: ‘’The idea of summer school is brought from Europe. When we learn anything, we learn it differently and overdo it. I am against summer school but not in support of idleness during holidays. Pupils should be made to embrace entrepreneurship during holidays. They can learn sewing, baking, etc.”
For chairman, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Ojo chapter, Lagos, Mr Tajudeen Oladipupo: “Summer school is a modern way to thrive in school business. Another means to make extra cash for the schools. School proprietors are modern entrepreneurs.
“The proprietors are capitalising on the ignorance of parents, who are not academically inclined. In the boarding school, pupils go for a siesta but because of economic consideration, these private schools can even ask the pupils to come to school on Sundays.
“The pupils may be brilliant and pass exams, but the schools are doing damage to their brains. The aftermath is usually counterproductive. At the end of the day, it is akin to a motion without action. We, as teachers and educators, always urge the government to move against such a situation.”
Dr Celine Njoku, Counsellor with Education District 1V, Lagos State, said summer schools serve some purposes. She noted that apart from school proprietors using the period to generate money to augment their resources, it also provides a place for busy parents to keep their kids during holidays.
According to her, allowing pupils to play for long while on holiday can affect their learning because they may forget all they learnt during school season.
Njoku, however, advised parents to create a balance between learning and playing, adding that pupils also need to acquire social skills beyond learning.
Mrs Ada Obaje, Managing Director, Lenpriss International, said summer coaching should not be seen as an opportunity to exploit parents: “I attended summer coaching. It is not an exploitative affair, rather a veritable means of grooming well-rounded products.
“If you are not buoyant enough to enable your children go on vacation, then, enrol them in a summer school. Summer school or coaching is a necessity; not a luxury for a child and should be tailored according to the parents’ capacity.”
A private school teacher, who did not want her name in print said: ‘’I use the occasion to rest during the long vacation. In as much as the summer coaching will be for few hours, without being rigorous, pupils should use the opportunity to revise what they have learnt earlier.
“Some parents allow their kids to acquire some skills in baking, catering, hairdressing, tailoring which is a good step to take. The most important thing is to keep them busy and not allow them to be idle.
“An idle hand is the devil’s workshop. If children are not kept busy during this period, the tendency to get involved in crime is high.”
Another private school operator in, Lekki, Lagos State, described summer school as a foreign concept and that Nigerian educators had given it a different meaning: “In overseas, it is meant for pupils to engage in things different from academic works and to relax their brains but in Nigeria, it is about learning.
“If you examine it well anyway, you will discover that summer coaching helps the schools, parents and pupils. I do not see it as exploitative as it helps working parents while at work even if for a few hours.”
A parent, Mr Babatunde Gasper, said organising summer school depends on the school and what it has put in place: “Most parents during the period may not be on holiday and they cannot leave their kids with maids alone. It is not a bad idea but what matter are the activities put in place for the pupils by the schools.
“My kids’ school, they do more of vocations and skill development training, with a little academics. The kids reflect what they are taught in school at home. The schools should look at other activities to develop the kids apart from academics. They can create activities around it, two days of entrepreneurship, one day of excursion, and then two days for academics, it becomes memorable for the children.’’
Head of MarvelKarl Private School (MKS), Oko-Afo, Lagos State, Mr Raymond Oshoke, observed that holiday period should be a time for pupils and teachers to rest: “It is a time for pupils to bond with their families, hone their skills by playing games or learning new skills.
“Some of the school owners use the summer coaching as an avenue to make money and give a certain percentage to their teachers, who they may not pay salary during the long holidays. MKS operates a friendly employer policy and will not introduce summer school because teachers too ought to have time to rest.”
A father of four children in Kotangora, Niger State, Mr Dandy Suleman, recalled as a child that most people who went to school during that era would remember that the end of each academic session was a time of joy, freedom, and excitement:
“Presently, the system is different as hundreds or thousands of pupils attend summer coaching instead of summer break. I do not think it is an avenue for school owners to exploit parents, rather, summer school is a critical part for kids to stay on track with their studies.” He suggested that school owners should design the summer school for skill development, vocational studies, and academics, instead of academic activities.