Pupils and teachers deserve end-of-term break
Posted Thursday, August 30 2012 at 18:46
- Jimmy and his fellow students deserve a proper break at the end of every term; they’ll do all the better for it.
When my sister Ruth told me that nephew Jimmy would be spending most of the August holidays in school, I almost raised the issue of the tuition ban but then thought better of it; as his mother, Ruth surely new best.
After all, Jimmy’s grades had dropped dramatically and he had taken to falling asleep in class.
Still, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the punishing routine is not at the root of Jimmy’s declining performance.
Then I saw last Friday’s front-page headline in the Dernière Heure and wondered whether the allure of filthy lucre wasn’t the real cause of Jimmy’s troubles. The headline ran thus: ‘When teachers con your children’.
In Belgium. the school year starts at the beginning of September and as the summer holidays come to an end and parents are busy shopping for school supplies, a parents association has released the results of a study which shows that almost half of the secondary school students within the Francophone community have had private tuition during the school year or during the holidays.
A parent told that Jacques is really not doing very well in maths and is likely to fail his year unless he takes private lessons at his teacher’s home is more than likely to take up the suggestion; 88 per cent of the parents questioned in the study have paid for extra tuition in maths.
The newspaper article speaks of an “abject and unacceptable racket” organised by some unscrupulous teachers to exploit their own students, making anything between 10 and 50 euros per hour, all of it undeclared to the taxman.
Mathematics has never been my strong point ever since Kenya’s education system abandoned algebra — which I had been good at — for what was then referred to as new maths. I was left behind, but there was no question of extra tuition and the teachers at St Peter Claver’s Primary School did not offer any.
Still, good grades in English, greatly encouraged by voracious reading from the piles of books bought second-hand by mother at a Red Cross shop and also by pithy put-downs from Mr Were— my teacher — more than made up for the average ones received in maths. In between terms, month-long holidays were the norm.
I did well enough to go to secondary and then high school as a day bug where the A-level syllabus was covered and revised with three entire weeks to spare for personal study and revision before the final exams.
My friend Phyllis and I would meet at the main campus where she had talked the poet and lecturer David Rubadiri into letting us have use of an office for revision.
But a bit of the time was also spent lolling around on the lawn of the Great Court or across at the terrace of the Norfolk Hotel where the waiters got to know us well enough to give us a free slice of the chocolate cake to go with the daily bottle of Schweppes Bitter Lemon.
Although our results would certainly not have warranted our pictures and those of our delighted parents and teachers appearing in the Press, we did well enough to go to college; we had adopted Mr Diamond’s preference for a good grade imaginatively gained rather than an excellent one acquired through learning only by rote.
As both Rasna Warah and Caroline Mutoko have so eloquently put it in their columns elsewhere in the Kenyan press, Jimmy and his fellow students deserve a proper break at the end of every term; they’ll do all the better for it.
Ms Guchu is a Kenyan resident in Belgium