So, Just Who Is a Good Student? [opinion]

Third term for primary and secondary schools kicked off last week.

Patronage at many places of entertainment is less than usual lately, perhaps because many parents take the burden of paying fees seriously. Come October, the accountability process kicks off in earnest beginning with senior four exams, then the primary leaving examinations early in November, followed by the A-levels.

For many parents, expectations are straightforward! Get to school, put your head down and work for an excellent grade in the end-of-year examinations.

The P7 candidates will possibly be exposed to three or four full sets of past examination papers every week, until D-day! Have a thought for these 12- or 13-year-old kids! Each examinations set takes up 10 hours -that is 30 hours a week of working individually and silently in an exam room prepping for the PLE! Superman qualities indeed! I do not know many adults that can manage such a schedule.

For the older students in secondary school, it is not as gruelling but the schedule is equally stressful. If they have committed teachers, the average candidate may find themselves with no personal time left since such teachers take up entire evening prep times in addition to newly-created lesson times.

For every candidate student, February is the dreaded month because that is when the Uneb results are released. The ‘good child’ is one who has passed examinations – and with a super first grade if in primary. The ‘excellent child’ is the one who has made it into the newspapers!

That is our narrow way of defining the ‘goodness of a child’ in Uganda!

In the UK, an MP, Jesse Norman, newly appointed to their prime minister’s policy aisory board, recently annoyed head teachers. An Old Etonian (old boy of Eton School), he claims that the reason old students of his school dominate the UK government is because they are groomed for leadership.

He asserts that, “Other schools don’t have the same commitment to public service… ” and that, “… the pupils really do run vast chunks of the school.”

His view is that many schools do other things instead of the important leadership opportunities plus “rhetoric, poetry and public speaking and performance (that) are incredibly important to young people succeeding in life.”

He may have a point! Last week, youths who were collecting signatures on the streets to form an unemployed people’s association were arrested for their efforts. As we await results of the newly-conducted census, it is estimated that we may have about 80 per cent of our youths with no work.

Surely, many of these unemployed youths may have experienced the gruelling PLE plus the stressful O and A-Level examinations. Some may also be graduates!

So, where do we get it wrong? My niece completed university in June, having studied a ‘to-die-for’ popular and ‘expensive’ course! Unfortunately for the entire family, she will have nothing to do with what she has studied. Ironically, her time at university has left her disillusioned!

She had great hopes at the beginning of the course but now, at graduation time, none of her peers talks of work. Most want a deal that may land them a car plus other luxuries, and within six weeks of graduation.

On the one hand, we have high-flying graduates who leave university hating their professions and, on the other, we have unemployed youths who also experienced the tough demands of our education system!

Consequently, parents must redefine the good child or student! The ability to pass national examinations, though crucial, should only be one of the requirements but not the end in itself.

As you return your children to school for this final term of the year, demand that they should be able to read, comprehend and engage with complex texts. Insist that they should write an essay recommending what can be done to improve their local society’s livelihood. They should have taken up at least one leadership opportunity by end of term.

Ask if they have addressed a school assembly or led a group community service project. They must also be amiable and considerate of others’ needs. Finally, check that in the 12 weeks your children have spent away from you, they are polite and able to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’!

Most children who have had the above opportunities will apply themselves to creative and productive projects instead of registering an unemployed people’s association.

The author is one of the founding Kigo Thinkers.

Source : The Observer