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Parents, educationists express divergent views on summer classes

Students are currently on holiday but it seems many are beginning to lose sight of what it means to have a holiday

In the past, school holidays came with lots of expectations from both students and parents as they provide an opportunity for students to take a break, recharge, visit distant relatives and friends and in some cases assist parents in the place of business or learn handwork before another term begins. However, the story cannot be said to be the same today, especially with the way private schools operate in the country.

Today, during the holidays, many schools introduce compulsory supplementary lessons and practices for co-curricular activities, especially with the disruption of the academic calendar by COVID-19, as a way to meet up with the academic calendar.

Students are currently on holiday but it seems many are beginning to lose sight of what it means to have a holiday because the private schools are keeping a lot of them in school for Summer classes, a step which has triggered reactions from parents and educationists.

The chairman of Voyage International School, Abuja, Yussuff Oriyomi, said Summer is the period of holiday when children are not in School. “We basically use the period for co-curricular activities to make students learn essential skills both hard and soft in areas like swimming, football, fashion designing etc.”

Oriyomi said: “It is open to all categories of students because it is a period that should be used for co-curricular activities like entrepreneurship skills. If it will include any academic content, it should be minimal and that should be in subjects where a child is struggling.”

He, however, debunked the allegation that private schools pressure parents into enrolling their wards in summer classes, saying, “Summer school is optional in all schools that I know and it remains so in ours.”

“We have a football tournament involving training and competition, we are having a fashion designing workshop for three weeks and we are doing coding and robotics and then Quran classes. There’s no academic content in our summer class,” he said.

He said the parents pay a fee ranging from N30,000 to N50,000 because the classes are not handled by school staff but specialists and consultants who charge professional fees.

A parent, Mrs Blessing Oladimeji, said she enrolled her three kids in summer class at Christabel School Abuja for N55, 000 each.

She said they have series of activities like swimming, basketball, robotics, culinary skills, and they taught them how to make snacks and everyone came home with his, “they do basically non-academic, interesting and fun activities for the kids.”

Some students engaged during a summer class

She said it is not true that summer class is robbing children of the opportunity to learn an entrepreneurial skill rather they learn some skills and other fun activities.

“Initially, I was looking for another environment outside their school so they can get familiar with kids from other schools and learn other things but on a second thought, I decided to give their school a chance since they spelt out all the things they will do and the children are now looking forward to going to school,” she said.

She said: “Last week, they did not attend because we went for a wedding. When they resumed on Monday, they were sad and told me they missed a lot. My son said he wouldn’t want to miss any day again. So, for them to be looking forward to the classes means it is fun and they are not being stressed with any academic work.”

“I was not pressured as it is not mandatory; they only notify you in their newsletter of all the facilities available so if you are interested you come. They even gave a discount for early birds,” she said.

“When I realized the children staying home and watching cartoons all through is not healthy and I cannot take them on lessons because they won’t pay attention to me, I had to let them go to where they will sit down and listen,” she added.

In Benue State, some educationists who spoke to Daily Trust raised concerns over the manner private schools engage children in lessons during holidays, while blaming the parents who use it as an opportunity to send their children away from home to do their work or get rest.

An educationist, Joseph Iorshe, said the idea of summer class during holidays as against learning an entrepreneurial skill isn’t in the best interest of the children.

Iorshe, who is Vice Principal (Administration) of Government College Makurdi (GCM), said because some parents want to go to work or feel that the presence of the children during the holidays disturbs them, they send them (children) to summer classes.

“But, instead of children going to school again during holidays, why don’t they learn entrepreneurial skills. Sometimes, what they learnt before is the same they will be taught again at the summer class. So, what is the impact?”

Iorshe, however, discouraged the idea of summer class, saying parents should rather be involved in the training of their children.

A parent, George Okoh, said he enrolled his children in a summer class of another private school other than their regular school which hadn’t made provision for summer lessons.

Okoh said his kids are doing a summer class where they are being taught entrepreneurship such as soap making, catering, music and beads making.

“They are between three and 11. It’s an opportunity for added knowledge. Although it robbed them of relaxation that they should have while on holidays, but they were eating too much so I decided to engage them positively,” he added.

For Mrs Rose Ejembi, when she went to pick up an item from her children’s school few days ago, the authorities asked why her

children weren’t enrolled for the summer classes but she quickly reminded them that holiday was meant for rest.

Ejembi said: “I reminded them that holiday is holiday and my children indeed need to be on holiday after spending lots of time in school every day. It is now time for the children to relax and engage in other extracurricular activities like acquiring entrepreneurial skills.”

She noted that in her children’s school, it is not mandatory for them to be part of the summer lesson, so they decided to engage them in something else.

In Kano, Daily Trust gathered that some private schools engage children in summer lessons during holidays for monetary gains and put parents under undue pressure.

A father, Habibu Abubakar, noted that while education is key, too much of everything is bad.

He said most private schools engage their students in extra moral lessons after regular school hours, which is optional in some schools and compulsory in others, in spite of all that, they still engage the students in summer classes during terminal breaks.

“Apart from overburdening the students academically at such an early stage, it also deprives them of the chance to learn entrepreneurial skills which will come in handy in the real world after graduating from school,” he said.

Another parent, Muhammad Ishaq, said that most of such schools are simply after the financial benefits they stand to gain from the parents and guardians of the students rather than the sheer passion for the academic excellence of the students.

For Dr. Abubakar Sadik, some schools deliberately shorten the syllabus, take out some basic and essential courses from the regular school programmes, only to be treated during those out-of-school hour extra class activities.

This according to him is to entice the students and lure their parents into agreeing to enrol their wards in the programme if they really want their kids to excel academically.”

Meanwhile, an educationist, Malama Amina Ali, observed that the students are supposed to be allowed to have the right of acquiring entrepreneurial skills but due to the circumstances of the corona pandemic, most of the schemes were not covered.

She added that students preparing for an external examination need to have that privilege of extra lessons in order to prepare well for their exams.

“If not for the above reasons, there is absolutely no need for extra lessons. The world right now revolves around globalisation and entrepreneurial development,” she added.

A football team practising during a summer-vacational class

In Lagos State, the majority of privately owned primary and secondary schools are organizing summer classes for students within and outside their schools.

While the summer classes are purely academics for some schools, others have in addition to academics, planned other activities like swimming, taekwondo, baking, sewing, bead making and coding among others.

A parent who is an entrepreneur, Mrs Olubunmi Ogbori, stated that the summer lessons are optional and not compulsory and as such,  parents are meant to decide whether their wards would participate or not.

According to her, parents have the choice to introduce other skills to their children during summer and shouldn’t feel pressured to enrol their kids for summer classes.

“The schools, however, are meeting a need, by providing activities to engage children of working-class parents who would rather want their kids to be positively engaged than be exposed to possible domestic abuse with nannies at home. It is up to entrepreneurs to see the opportunity in school vacations and create relevant fun courses to engage kids in their fields,” she said.

Mrs Abigail Asa urged parents to come to the realization of the fact that schools are also business centres and will stop at nothing to see that they make money at all times.

While schools are ever ready to make money, she stressed the need for parents to be wise enough to know what they want for their children and not obey or adhere to every school routine like purely academics summer classes. “There should be a level of parental control,” she said.

On her own part, a banker and mother of four, Mrs Elizabeth Emordi, opined that parents need to engage their children in skills acquisition during summer, saying, it will help develop their mental well-being aside from reading and writing all the time.

Engaging these children gainfully in skills according to her also fixes their mind on positive thinking as she lamented that the moral decency in the society has assumed an alarming state.

“It is now obvious that only school education cannot take them far especially with the current economic situation of the country. So, they need to be groomed early on how to look outside school education and make life liveable for themselves with or without the help of their parents or government in future.”

A lawyer and mother and three, Mrs Ganiyat Zubair, also believes that children should be given the opportunity to explore; noting that in their quest for the exploration lies the opportunity for entrepreneurial skills, as it avails them opportunity to learn something new.

To her, entrepreneurial skills not only teach the children what they do not know but also provides an avenue to discover themselves and bring out their God-given talent, as well as prepare them for the future.

While she admitted that teachers like every other worker need the means to sustain their family and household; she maintained that she would rather engage her children in entrepreneurial knowledge acquisition than allow them to attend summer lessons.

A parent in Ibadan, Mr Nurudeen Kazeem, said he was forced by children and his wife to pay for summer class for his children rather than enrolling them for vocational training.

“With the way things are going in the country, especially the high rate of unemployment, our children ought to have gone to learn vocational skills because even after school, they can set up their vocation and become employers of labour,” he said.

“Ordinarily, I love acquiring vocational skills. But I had to comply with the request of my wife and children when they mounted pressure on me for lesson. I agree with you that teacher and school owners are mounting unnecessary pressures on parents to ensure they send their wards and children to summer lesson.”

While another parent, Ifewale Aremu, in his own submission accepted that vocational skills are very important, he said formal education must also be prioritised for betterment of the children.

Aremu noted that many children forget their books easily but with summer classes, their brain will be refreshed, adding that there is also need to ensure children acquire vocational training.

The principal of the Pen Group of School, Iyaganu, Ibadan, Adewuyi Onigbinde, however, said there is need to continue oiling the brains of the children even during the holidays and that they are not forcing parents to send their children to summer classes.

“There is need for them to continue learning even during holidays. During our days in public schools, we were not fortunate to learn during the holidays, except those who were rich enough to employ private teachers for their children. But now that private schools have created opportunity for children to learn, I think parents need to embrace it.”

Chidimma C. Okeke (Abuja), Hope Abah Emmanuel (Makurdi), Usman Bello Balarabe (Kano), Christiana T. Alabi (Lagos) & Jeremiah Oke (Ibadan)

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