To allow your child to repeat classes or not?

Like many parents, Tenderoni and I have had the discussion on transferring our daughter to another school.

This discussion usually happens when Pudd’ng’s grades dip. Or when the results of her school’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examinations (KCPE) are out, and we realise that her school’s average grades have gone south or the neighbouring schools are doing better.  

Pudd’ng’s school has a sister school. Last year, all the class eight pupils in her school were registered in the main school. This was because the number of pupils in Pudd’ng’s school was too few. Thus, under the national examinations rules, they would not be recognised or registered as an examination centre.  

Every Kenyan parent’s worry

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Last term when I went to collect Pudd’ng’s report card, I found a parent reviewing her daughter’s progress, or lack thereof. The concerned mother wanted to transfer her daughter to a boarding school, and make her repeat the same class.

“My daughter is still young enough,” the mother opined, “and I’m sure that making her repeat class six will give her ample time to prepare for KCPE.”

This mother is every Kenyan parent. A good majority of Kenyan parents will do whatever it takes to make their children to ace national exams.  

A teacher’s sole prerogative

Back in the day, pupils who did not make a certain grade were made to repeat a class. This was a forgone conclusion. Parents and pupils did not have a say in this. It was the teachers’ sole prerogative.

There were instances when a pupil repeated classes several times. When repeating did not help matters, the teachers let the pupil to advance to the next class. 

Future of academics

During the inaugural Kenya International Film Festival (KISFF), which was held in the last week of November, there were 10 different panels, which addressed 10 different issues.

One of the panels was on the future of sports in Kenya and beyond. In this discussion, the issue of putting sports in the curriculum came up.

David Waters has been involved in different facets of Kenyan cricket. He was in the audience and gave his two cents’ worth.   

David runs a programme that provides cricket sporting facilities. The programme builds pupils’ character, passion, curiosity, determination, social intelligence and self-control.

“When we started four years ago, schools and parents were reluctant; they were of the opinion that if we introduced sports into their curriculum, it would adversely affect the young ones’ academic studies,” David said.

“Four years down the line, several primary schools in the slum areas that we work in have achieved their highest ever Kenya Certificate of Primary Education results. A head teacher said that our programme was the main reason for the improvement.”

The future of academics in Kenya does not solely rely inside stuffy classrooms, but on integrating David’s holistic type of playtime into the curriculum.

A parent’s sole prerogative

“Your daughter may feel bad that she has been taken one step backwards while her peers are advancing,” Pudd’ng’s class teacher warned the mother. “This ploy may not work as you have envisaged. Your daughter may slacken, thinking that she already knows everything in the class that she is being told to retake.”

“For the past six years, your daughter has been used to a routine; going to the same school, waking at the same time, and so on. When a routine is changed, it may affect a pupil’s performance.”

From where I sat, I could see that the teacher’s argument was going in the parent’s one ear and out through the other.

I won’t be surprised if the pupil – who has no say in her future – gets transferred and repeats a class. After all, it is, it seems, a parent’s sole prerogative.

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