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PARENTING IN KENYA: ABSENTEE PARENTS AND HOLIDAY TUITION

Education Minister Mutula Kilonzo

Education Minister Mutula Kilonzo has had a battle with parents and teachers for the past two months. First it was the mini-skirt debate where the minister stated that school girls should not be dressed as nuns and then there is the holiday tuition debate. The former issue was settled eventually after the parties involved came to a compromise but the latter is still running hot.

Holiday tuition has existed in Kenya for years but has become more common with time. Ten years ago, holiday tuition was only an option, under the current 8-4-4 system, for pupils in class seven and eight and for high school students in form 3 and 4 but nowadays it has become a mandatory part of the curriculum and is now available even for kindergarten kids.

Previously, the optional tuition would involve revisiting the content that had already been covered in the syllabus before a particular school term came to a close, so as to enable participants to revise and get a better understanding of the subject. Currently however, the mandatory holiday tuition involves carrying on with the syllabus hence leaving students with no choice but to attend in order be at par with the rest of their classmates.

KIBAKI BANS HOLIDAY TUITION

President Kibaki’s government has regularly issued bans on holiday tuition in the past but it has never been effective, or rather the issue was just

addressed casually hence no one paid attention. Most parents viewed it as an extorting affair and did not involve their kids as much, but today it

President Kibaki – Government issued bans on holiday tuition

seems like most parents would prefer to have their children away in school than at home.

When Minister Kilonzo announced the ban on holiday tuition last month the issue this time was taken seriously, perhaps because the fellow is a renowned reformer with a proven record of putting his words into action unlike most of his counterparts.

KILONZO KICKS UP A STORM

The announcement kicked up a storm across the country and was much criticized by teachers and other stakeholders in the education sector but what this Kenya Forum correspondent found astonishing was the parent’s reactions to it. A few parents supported the idea but most of them were totally against it and it was unbelievable listening to the reasons some of them gave.

One woman was caught on air whining about the mess her children create in the house over school holidays and said that she would rather they stay in the confines of the school compound. “uchumi ni mbaya/ the economy is not good and when I leave this children in the house, I don’t find any food left in the house when I get back from work in the evening”, she declared.

Another claimed that having the kids at home will be a handful given her tight work schedule.

KUPPET Secretary General Akelo Misori

The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) Secretary General Akelo Misori criticized the ban on tuition, maintaining that parents and students should have been consulted on the matter since they are the ones affected.

“Extra coaching is necessary for students who are slow learners and also to enable schools that don’t have enough amenities to catch up in the curriculum”, he added.

PAYING SCHOOL FEES AND FOOD IS NOT ALL, PARENTS OUGHT TO KNOW

Clearly the whole debate depicts a grim reality of parents who don’t have time for their children and have left the responsibility of raising them to teachers and nannies. As a result, parents fail to create a bond with their kids and it becomes quite hard to understand the emotional needs of an individual child.

The other day, a group of young women could not believe it when one of them confessed that she found out that her four year-old daughter had been sexually assaulted by their next door neighbor three days after the incidence occurred. Her excuse was that she leaves the house to go to work when her baby is still asleep and gets back in the evening when baby has already been put to bed by the house girl. Sadly if it weren’t for the house girl, the absentee mother would probably have never have found out what had happened to her poor girl.

‘KIDS NEED TO SPEND MORE TIME WITH THEIR MOM AND DAD’

Some kids get so attached to their nannies to the extent of calling them ‘mum’, while the actual mother is referred to by her real names. Some babies will even cry when the house help walks out of the room, and feel nothing when the mother or father walks out.

According to ‘Milly’, a mother and a teacher, kids need to spend more time with mom and dad as compared to the time they spend with teachers. “Some teachers could be so evil, ask me , I am a teacher and I see how kids are treated , I teach kindergarten kids and I cry almost daily, I comfort countless kids who get no love or attention from their teachers ”, she says

Adding to that, when parents leave the responsibility of bringing up their kids to teachers they should never complain when in the future their offspring exhibit different behaviors from them, since the parents never played much of a role in bringing them up.

ALL WORK WITHOUT PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY

The 8-4-4 system is already a handful in itself which bombards children with so much work. It is  therefore important to let kids enjoy the school holidays and take a break from it all. The one month break is not just for leisure but allows children to be in a different environment which creates room to think differently and opens up the mind as well. They get time to relax and then when the schools open they are eager and ready to learn, after all an over worked brain can only take in so much.

In defending the move, Mutula said that it’s essential to give students an opportunity to relax since the curriculum developed can be covered over a specific period of time, indicating that what’s going on is actually gross abuse of the children’s rights as defined in the constitution. He pointed out that the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) Code of Conduct actually bars a public officer from charging or accepting any fee for tuition of a student, even if it is given outside official working hours.

The directive given by the minister will result in punishment for any head teacher entertaining the idea of tuition punishment and risks the dissolving of the School’s Boards of Management as well but it has come to the attention of this Forum correspondent that some parents, especially in the rural towns, are conspiring with school heads to secretly engage their

KNUT threatens to strike

children in the holiday tuition.

KNUT THREATENS TO STRIKE

Mean while, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) has threatened Minister Mutula Kilonzo with a national strike when schools open for the third term, demanding for a 300% salary increment, clearly an indication that holiday tuition is just another cash cow for the teaching fraternity.

“Teachers in Kitui and elsewhere in the country will comply with the Mutula’s policy, but I am telling him the teachers are going to teach him a lesson”, said Joseph Makuthu, the Executive Secretary of Knut’s Kitui branch.

As a Swahili saying goes,kuzaa si kazi, kulea ndio kazi/ ‘the challenge doesn’t come in giving birth but in raising the children’. Kenyan parents should realize the importance of taking centre stage in their children’s life.

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