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Parents at fault for allowing long school hours for pupils

EDUCATION
By Wesonga Robert | March 14th 2020

Recent images of children on their way to school as early as five o’clock in the morning sparked our usual debate on the internet, which is a predictable reactionary approach to issues that lasts no more than 24 hours. 

The self-appointed reactionaries, who I bet are members of the National Keyboard Warriors Association, did not disappoint in their quest to defend the interests of the Kenyan child.

This group, composed of our most militant cyber heroes blamed it on teachers, who wanted to beat competition from rival schools. A few blamed it on parents. This was to be expected, because the typical trend has been that the parent must be stripped of all responsibility when it comes to education of their children, save paying school fees.

The truth few wanted to find out nor say, however, is that the problem of turning schools into teaching factories, and learners into raw materials in this production complexes has been caused by the changed ethic in this country. This change of ethos happened at the turn of the new millennium. Since the year 2000, we have witnessed an unhealthy competition that has robbed the education system of the order that a good schooling regime should have.

This has happened to an extent that it is now not about the production of human work force that will challenge the problems of today and tomorrow, but the creation of automatons with good grades but stressed minds with no humane values.

Today, parents compete to take their kids to those schools where pupils spend most of the time in class, including weekends. To them, this justifies the heavy expenditure in fees and all. Clearly, to many parents, the quantity of time spent in school translates to quality teaching and learning – which is not the case in reality. This twisted belief is the explanation behind five and six-year-olds dozing off in buses in the ungodly hours of the morning.

Miles away

In some absurd situations, parents think that the higher the fees charged, the better the school. That is why some will not take their children to schools in the neighbourhood opting for the so-called ‘good schools’ miles way. To reach these schools, children must wake up early in order to beat the distance and the traffic.

This spirit of competition is what is responsible for the unimaginable levels of cheating in national examinations that was witnessed in the middle of the last decade. Teachers, students and parents colluded to deceive the system, and for several years went on undeterred.

When schools wanted to get numbers, teachers promotions, students good grades and parents a secure future for their kids, it was acceptable for competition to set in and kill the virtuous by promoting cheating in exams.

Every time children miss precious moments of sleep in the name of academic pursuits, we create a monster that will soon return to afflict us.

The American Academy for Sleep Medicine believes that children, who do not have enough sleep run a higher risk of obesity, mental disorders, injuries, diabetes and attention disorders. It further states how much sleep depends on the children’s age. Children aged 6–12 years should sleep for 9–12 hours while those aged 13–18 years should sleep continuously for 8–10 hours in a day.

Using these statistics, it is good for each one of us to do their math in order to figure out how many hours of sleep on a daily basis we have been denying children, and the risks associated with it.

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This week, the University of Nairobi students set their own hostels on fire, while protesting the killing of one of their own. It is suspected the student was killed by a guard. I have not taken enough time to figure out the relationship between the killing, the guard and the need to burn hostels. That is, assuming the guard is guilty and it right to take the law into their own hands.

This University of Nairobi incident happened barely twelve hours after students at Meru Polytechnic went on rampage at Makutano in Meru and set ablaze shops.

They were also protesting the killing of a student from the institution. Again here, it is difficult to see the relationship between the unfortunate death and the hard-earned fortunes of struggling shopkeepers.

In these two incidents, there is a clear obsession with fire. What I don’t understand is why anyone would choose to set on fire the very place where they sleep – however fired up they are. Clearly, parents, after years of paying fees and sending their children to school in the wee hours, will be magnanimous enough to supply the money needed in paying for the damages.

The writer is a lecturer in Literature at University of Kabianga.

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