Q. What is the right age to take a child to boarding school without affecting the psychological well-being? I have been transferred to new work stations several times and I plan to settle my daughter in a boarding school so that I don’t interrupt her learning each time I move to a new work station.”
You have asked a question for which I do not have a satisfactory answer. The truth is that “it depends”. That said, one must consider very many factors in deciding if indeed boarding school is an option for one, or all their children. In your case, it seems that the frequent transfers from the station to the station might force you to take your children to boarding school before you or the children are ready to separate.
There are however many other issues that are raised by our question.
A recent declaration by a senior government official stated that boarding schools would be phased out in Kenya.
A leading figure in the education sector — Prof George Magoha — held the view that this was not a wise move. Many parents who have children in national schools agreed with him.
It is argued that many children from some of the more remote parts of the country would not have gone to school if they could not get access to boarding facilities.
Another argument for boarding schools is that boys and girls from different parts of the country live and study together and this way learn to be better citizens!
Your question, however, pulls us back to consider “the right age” to send children to boarding school.
The extreme position raised in your question has to be “why should any child be sent to boarding school”.
About 20 years ago, when TV stations began to mushroom in Kenya, we saw a number of children who had been sent to boarding school by their parents as a form of punishment.
Many parents complained that the children were getting spoilt by the TV and that the only way to sort them out is to send them off to a place where there were rules about TV and other luxuries.
In one case that comes to mind, a 16-year-old boy from a wealthy family was sent to a rural school where there was no TV reception. That, in the mind of his father, was the solution. The boy had other issues. Two days after he arrived at the school, he poured a bucket of water in his own bed. Asked what happened, he said he was a bed wetter and could not stay in the school. That trick did not work and he was made to sleep in a wet bed.
The following day, there was no cooking gas at the school. One of the cooks reported having seen the boy near the gas cooker earlier in the day. The boy was reprimanded and told he would be expelled if he did anything else that could upset the school system!
Two days later, he was indeed expelled. A fire had started in one of the classrooms and it was clear that he had caused it. At home later that day, his parents found him watching TV! In desperation, they sent him to the doctor to see what was wrong with him. It was later confirmed that he had dyslexia.
With this condition, the boy had serious problems with the written word. Much as he tried to read or write, he found it increasingly difficult.
The more his parents and teachers pushed him the more desperate he became. Because he was from a wealthy family his parents had managed to “push” him through various schools and up to the age of 16, the system had not broken down. Punishing him by sending him to a boarding school broke the camel’s back and led to the current diagnosis. He was also severely depressed.
A man came to see us recently with a question similar to yours. He is the father of a set of twins aged nine. Their mother left him two years earlier and now lives with a boyfriend in Europe. He has found a good job that requires him to travel in the region frequently.
He wanted to know if boarding school would be good for his boys. In his case, a simple solution was in hand. He found the twins a weekly boarding school. He was able to plan his life such that he had the boys at home on weekends, while he travelled on duty the whole week.
As you can see, the concept of boarding school ranges from those attending as a way of punishment to those that allow for weekly boarding that enables parents to pursue careers.
Every family must plan and decide what is best for the children at which time.