Nature would have them children before they are men

By IAfrica
In Zimbabwe
Aug 16th, 2014

Op5Beatrice Tonhodzayi-Ngondo
School has never been tougher than it is now.
Every last day of school the children present you with paper upon paper of holiday homework. They tell you expressly that you must help them with this work before the first day of the new school term.

Back in the day, was it like this? Except for the school report and the school fees invoice for the new term, I do not recall getting any other paper or communication from school on the last day.

Or was it just the teachers at the schools that I went to were lazy? But upon enquiring from parents around, it seems many agree that the children today are getting much more work than children who grew up in the past, including us.

As early as Grade One, there is holiday homework nowadays.

When you add the holiday and daily homework that children get every Monday to Thursday in most schools, with Friday being the only day children are exempted from homework in most schools; the reality is that children are literally living for school and books.

That is why it does not make sense that pass rates are actually going down.

Reports coming from the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council are that the June Ordinary and Advanced Level results for 2014 are disappointing.

This does not make sense at all with the amount of work children get as homework both during and after the school term.

The upper primary school classes like Grade Five and Six are the worst especially in private schools.

They have homework ranging across all the subjects.

While I fully subscribe to the idea of getting an education for one to make it in life; at times I have to wonder whether it is all not a bit too much at times.

Holidays and weekends are for resting and letting loose.

Adults go mad when they get a public holiday in between.

This is because a healthy work/life balance is important in everyone’s life. This is why you see them braaing, drinking and generally making a nuisance out of themselves.

Everyone deserves a break at times. Thus when children are bombarded with books and school no matter which direction they turn, are we not making them hate school?

When something is in your face at every moment, chances are you begin to dislike it.

When you dislike something, very often you disengage from it.

When you disengage, the levels of understanding also take a dip.

Thus, the children must be allowed to rest and breathe.

I always wish for those moments when the only care I had in the world was how many games I would be able to squeeze into a day before my mother called me into the house.

Back then, when as soon as I woke up, I would dash out of the gate to walk across to a friend’s house to play house. At times you did not even have to go to someone’s house. The street was good enough. You would just dash onto the streets, which is where you would spend the day until your mother or some older sibling decided you had to come in and eat or bath.

There is no such luxury for the children today though.

Not only is there lots of work for the children in school but it is also quite difficult.

After engaging in a discussion about how children these days are generally not doing well in Shona and Mathematics, we decided to compare notes as parents with children in different schools and the consensus was that the work children are getting, especially at primary school level, is hard.

Imagine a Grade Two child being asked questions that their mother or father, who have both attained a college or university qualification, are not able to answer. This happens a lot especially with Shona. The children deal with complex Shona which we do not use in our everyday conversations. Then you truly wonder what is going on.

There are quite a lot of changes which have been taking place in the education sector over the past few years, which need to be looked into. Truth be told, the children are now doing too much. This is my view as a parent and not an education expert. It is shared by many other parents. When young minds are forced to absorb as much as they are absorbing currently, does this not just make them dislike school and lead them to despise the culture of reading and studying? While it is a fact that school becomes more intensive as one grows older, this business of dosing children with school at every turn may be the reason behind  the poor performance we see today.

School used to be a pleasurable experience. Back then, we had ample time to do music, swimming, physical education, and still do our school subjects. Extra lessons were there, especially for classes sitting for public examinations. Today, there are all sorts of subjects and very little time for extra curricula activities. A child in primary school can have as many as 20 exercise books in their backpack, which is amazing. Just what are they learning? If they are learning so much, why are they not doing well? Is it that our syllabus has become too tough? Maybe it should be reviewed then?

Is it that the measly pay we are giving teachers has made them decide to dump their job onto the parent through excessive homework?

While homework has always been part and parcel of school and is a good way of ensuring that children have grasped what they have learnt at school, there is need to ensure that homework does not become the actual school. After all, children need to rest and re-energise. That is the only way they will learn. Just think what difference there will be if children actually enjoy learning!

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