• Controversy over extra-moral classes

    Controversy over extra-moral classes - nigeria newspapers online
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    How practice impacts on kids, parents


    By Cosmas Omegoh


    Controversies have continued to trail after-school activities otherwise known as lesson organised by teachers for pupils in primary schools.  

    It has been a tradition in many schools for teachers to engage the pupils in extra-moral lessons after the regular school session has closed for the day.  

    Pupils are made to stay behind for extra coaching and other engagements, which their parents oftentimes pay for.

    According to Sunday Sun investigation, this period sometimes lasts for three or even more hours before their parents arrive or they are left to go home by themselves. 

    Pupils whose parents can afford to pay for hours of extra-moral activities stay back to learn after others have gone home while the pupils whose parents either cannot afford to pay or detest the idea are asked to go home.  

    While the pupils are in school, they are either taught new things ahead of the time or taken through what they learnt earlier in the day.

    The session over, the pupils trudge home, sometimes having little or no time to rest, sleep or play. And by the time they arrive at home, some of them are already fagged out.

    From time to time, officials of states and the Federal governments make veiled displeasure with the practice, suggesting that it is both unhealthy and unwholesome.   

    Recently, for instance, the Anambra State government raised discussion on the matter when its Commissioner for Education, Prof Ngozi Chuma-Udeh, made reference to what she called UN-recommendation that schools should end their daily academic activities at 2:30p.m to allow the pupils to go home.

     It was a pronouncement that sparked off some form of controversy.   

    Earlier, the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Rev. Dr Paulinus Ezeokafor was said to have spoken against the idea.  

    However, in a swift reaction, the education commissioner offered clarifications that her statement was not a blanket ban on the practice. 

    Nevertheless, the import of her statement was not lost on anyone.    

    Prof Chuma-Udeh again triggered discussions and speculations on the real essence and impact of after-school activities for children. Everyone – parents, teachers and other experts – is now talking about the idea, each telling what they know about how it hurts or helps. 


    Why parents sanction after-school lessons

    According to Sunday Sun investigation,  more of working-class mothers, and business women are the ones whose kids stay behind after school. The idea is to allow them space and time to strike the delicate balance between running their careers and businesses and their families at the same time. Such mothers wake up early in the morning to get their kids ready for school. They hit the streets, dropping them off at before facing the road to their offices and businesses. Their children do not go home until they return at about 6:00p.m or 7:00p.m to take them home. Most of the mothers do not have house helps or trusted persons to assist them keep that part of their families together.

    During the after-school hours, the schools engage the children in academic activities, rather than allowing them room to roam.  

    It was also discovered that there are scenarios where schools organise lessons to enable the teachers earn extra income.

    In doing so, the schools procure parents’ consent after they have created the impression that they reserve the best for pupils for the last. In this instance, parents who obviously desire the best for their children agree to a deal to pay extra for their kids to be thought something more. And the best time to do that is after-school hours.

    Teacher’s perspective on after-school lessons  

    Mrs Lizzy Kaike is a retired private school headmistress living in Surulere, Lagos.

    She said the after-school activities were primarily designed to help take care of kids of parents who are working, but have no close family relatives to take care of their children after school hours.

    “For such parents, schools will arrange to keep their kids busy and safe at school before they return. The children will be offered some activities like school work just to keep them busy.

    “The teacher might review what they did previously or teach them new things at the same time. While doing that, both the teachers and the schools earn little money to get by.

    “In some instances, a buoyant school might have sleeping facilities for the already tired children or even recreational facilities for the ones who still want to play, with a teacher watching.  

    “The teacher will be around until the kids’ parents return to take them away, of course, there is an agreed timeline for that,” she said.

    She also confirmed that some parents whose kids are preparing for various external examinations, pay teachers for more coaching to put them in a better stead to excel.

    Is after-school lesson healthy?

    A lot of the controversies surrounding after-school lesson for children border on how healthy the practice is.

    A mother, and developmental psychologist, Dr Gbenusola Akinwale, here offerred more insight into why after-school lessons might not be wished away after all.

    The University of Lagos (Unilag) don said: “Definitely, there is a limit to which we can expose our children to in terms of the time they spend outside the comfort of the home.

    “But because of the peculiarities of the time which sees a lot of people working far from their homes, the schools come handy as a place where parents can be offered security for their children after school.

    “Of course, oftentimes, most parents cannot leave their kids with minders at home – some of which are not longer trust worthy anymore in our society. So, most parents now resort to leaving their kids in the school with the hope that it is a safer environment.

    “So, sometimes, the context of a particular situation will determine the approach.

    “In the past year, that was not the approach; but there is a need for changes and we can see that trend now.

    “In Lagos, for example, most people work far away from their homes. They get home not earlier than 6:00 p.m; recall that most conventional schools close as early as 3:00p.m. So, where do you leave those kids? That is why we see schools coming up with after-school programmes.

    “When you look at those programmes, some of them are quite good. It might not be a learning environment per se.

    “At 3:00 p.m they allow the kids to remove their uniforms, wear their mufti, and feel at home. Some have access to television, lunch and play facilities which they can find engaging.

    “So, in terms of safety, that is logical. If you ask the school driver to take the kids home, who would he drop them with, a busy neighbour or with a 13-year-old house help who cannot manage herself? 

    “We cannot compare our society with UK or US, but with the peculiarities we have, we cannot wish away after-school programme for kids.

    “As a mother and child psychologist, I also do that.

    “I had been at programmes that closed at 5:00 p.m. All I did was to put a call to the school and said ‘hold the boys for me till 6:00 p.m.’ In that instance, I had the confidence that the kids were safe.

    “We cannot rule out negligence or the place of quackery. But there is still room to train people to run after-school services, not necessarily to engage the teachers that have been working since 7:00 a.m.

    “Schools can always have programmes for people to come in at 1:00p.m and take up that duty and do it cheerfully for the good of the kids.”

    She added: “Now, let us take the issue of assignment given to the children at school. Oftentimes the parents are not available to help the children to deliver those assignments. If you have a minder that will ensure that the kids do that in your absence that will be good. In that case, your money can do that rather than you carrying  the entire burden.   

    “That is why I don’t discredit that effort as long as it is properly defined.”

    Then going down the memory lane she recalled that “in the past when we were still living in communal societies, we had responsible neighbour, aunties that could assist mothers handle a part of this responsibility of looking after the children.  

    “Now, look at the role of japa in all of this. There are no aunties, no cousins, no relatives again to assist, yet life must continue. And we have to continue raising our kids. Or do we say that ladies should stop working and sit down at home?”

    She, however, advised that parents should try and balance their activities. 

    “If it is one hour you spend at home with the kids that is okay. What matters is quality time.

    “I tell people that stay-at-home mums do not necessarily raise better kids. In that case, let the women go out and make money where they can to assist in training their kids. 

    “And so, all this is not cast in black and white. The contest redefines the colour we are going to use in the children’s development,” she pointed out.

    Dismissing the claim that when the kids are in school for long they are denied sleep, she said: “Everyone has their sleep rhythm. When the children are in school and want to sleep, even their teachers cannot stop them. Most of them play and then sleep. There are even some of them that are day students who help their parents with one thing or the other; they stay awake till 11:00p.m.”

    Then returning to the crux of the matter – why kids are made to learn further after school, she said: “Inasmuch as we have that (lesson), we cannot rule out the possibility that it is still effective until we carry out empirical studies to confirm our hypotheses. Otherwise, whatever we conclude here is still tentative.

    “I tell you, those kids while out there still relax. At those so-called lessons which last for three hours, basically they play for two hours.

    “The whole idea behind that is to keep them busy for that period so that they will not be loitering around the community or be in an unsafe environment. But if you look at what they do during that lesson period, many of it is like revision of what they did earlier in the day. In fact, what the teachers help them do is to revise the day’s work and do their assignments.

    “Therefore, the idea of having lesson is not as bad as it is termed as long as it serves other purposes beyond learning.

    “For most parents, what matters is safety, and what their children use their times for during the period they are at the lesson.”

    After-school lesson disposes kids to fatigue, mental health issues

    But in the words of Dr (Mrs) Chinyere Uzodinma, a consultant pediatrician, and medical director, X-Serve Children’s Hospital, Lekki, Lagos, most kids that indulge in after-school lessons, are being over-stretched. Over time, she said, they might be disposed to fatigue and perhaps suffer mental health issues.

    Her words: “Some positives have been ascribed to after-school lessons, but overall, the negatives are more.

    “We have to recall that school kids have a mandatory period to be in school between  8:30a.m and 2:30p.m. Yet, after that period, additional lesson period is imposed on them thereby cutting into their schedule. No time is left for them to observe their siesta. Most homes have forgotten that siesta ought to be very important for every kid.

    “Failure for kids to observe their siesta is destructive and detrimental; that might lead to mental health issues.

    “Kids need to observe their siesta. Then at about 5:00 p.m, they do outdoor activities – not watching television. Thereafter, they can revise what they were taught at school; then at 8:00p.m, they go to bed.

    “It is, therefore, bad that while the kids are supposed to be in bed at home observing  their siesta, they are at school engaging in after-school lessons.

    “Now, that comes with a lot of stress and fatigue. Such students or pupils can come down with accumulated loads of mental health issues over time.”

     She emphasised that children need a lot of time to sleep and relax their brains so as to enjoy positive growth.  

    But rather than dwelling extensively on the damage that might likely befall kids who are denied the benefit of quality time, she advised families on ways to manage their kids and family life for their overall wholesome development.

    “Parents need to find schools in the neighbourhood for their kids so that they can walk to and from school, rather than schools that are far away from home which will dispose the kids to spending long hours in the traffic. That does not help kids let out mental stress and build positive personality. Therefore, parents need to avoid schools that will dispose their kids to travelling long hours or being in traffic for long.”

    She went on to say that “parents need to think about how to raise their kids positively without allowing that to be a huge burden on them,” frowning at “the idea of going out at 4:00a.m and returning home at 11:00p.m,” as “very unhealthy for adult and family life. Parents need to look inwards to consider building a positively-healthy family.”

    She also stressed the essence of families staying together with their children, noting that the idea helps in promoting quality mental health while further advising parents to “stay with them (kids); if you lose it, you lose it.”

    Therefore, she warned parents to do the needful right now “to avoid doing damage control in the future.”

    Aside from after-school lessons, Dr Uzodinma equally frowned at the idea of sending kids to Saturday lessons, insisting that, it is equally as bad.

    “Doing that may enhance your children’s grades, but it might dispose them to having mental and emotional challenges. Children must be allowed to have their childhood,” she stated.

    Going further, she advised parents to engage in work that will help them look inwards in whatever they do. 

    She also advised them to seek out responsible adults who can help then fill the space they leave behind while away.

    “But when you get such responsible persons, appreciate them, thank them, and make them feel happy. Recognise that they are of great asset to you, rather than over focusing on their faults and things they failed to do well at home,” she added.

    She underlined the essence of parents investing in the life of family members, saying that is where the importance of grandmas, cousins and other extended relatives come to play.

    She also advised women dealing with raising their kids while at the same time working for the good of the family to “see the period as a passing phase,” saying that “you shall overcome some day.”


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