BY MARYANNE GICOBI
When schools shut down abruptly in March this year following the confirmation of Kenya’s first coronavirus case, most parents thought it would be a few weeks at most before schools reopened.
Several months later, children are still stuck at home as the Ministry of Education remains vague on opening dates.
With no preamble, parents were left to bridge the learning gap to the best of their knowledge. They have been forced to embrace home-schooling as part of efforts to keep their young ones abreast with their studies.
However, for Mary Magdalene, home schooling was a decision she made way before the pandemic struck.
The mother of two found it impossible to put up with the horrible experiences her children went through in school.
“My children attended a school that believed in beating pupils so they may perform well in exams. They would be caned for not meeting the pass mark, not completing their homework which was always too much. I hardly spent time with them since they would be up as early as 5:30am to prepare for school.”
Her youngest son, David ,11, was once beaten for scoring a B grade in Kiswahili and failing to meet the set target of A grade. On the other hand, his sister Talia burnt the midnight oil several nights a week to clear loads of homework due the following week.
At first, she transferred them from the school hoping the situation would improve. At the time, David was in Class Two and Talia Class Six.
“I found a school that offered both the 8-4-4 system and British Curriculum. It seemed quite posh and progressive. I felt they would know better than to cane children so they pass exams.”
Just to be sure, Mary Magdalene paid the school director a visit and explained the circumstances that led to the transfer from the previous school.
“I don’t believe in beating kids to perform well instead you teach them, if they are not getting, you teach them again. I shared this with the directors insisting that children shouldn’t be pressured simply because a school wants to post great scores. They said, here, we don’t beat kids, we believe in nurturing their talents.”
She left the office reassured and confident that her children were on the verge of a pleasant school experience. She was wrong.
The school believed in setting performance targets for the pupils and failure to meet these warranted canning.
Talia took to complaining about the terror that reigned in the classroom. Her heart would start beating hard when she approached school and she always had knots in her stomach. She was constantly weighed down by the amount of homework given every day.
“I remember making another trip to the school, this time to ask the teacher if it was possible to reduce the homework issued on school nights. I was informed it was necessary for her to do lots of homework in order to perform well.
So here were my kids, revising in fear and doing their exam in fear. I am a counsellor and from a professional point of view I could tell my children were not okay. The system was not working for them.”
A longer version of this story first ran on Daily Nation DN2 Parenting. Click here to read