What you need to know:
- In kindergarten most of children are among the best a school has- yet, in a change of society or a test from another unfamiliar tutor, they are rarely as impressive as a parent imagined, writes Joan Salmon.
Almost every parent looks forward, with glee, to the day their child joins school and of course, the first foot is set in kindergarten. The joy and anticipation is felt right from hunting for the right school. For some, that drives them to go for the most expensive school their money can afford with the notion that the formative years are crucial and they had better be spent in a ‘worthy’ school.
However, some parents have a bias towards high end schools. Apparently, they give out regular reports showing amazing progress. They impress it on you that your child is one of their best, to your pleasure. Until the fateful day when you take the child for an interview to be enrolled for Primary One elsewhere.
A single mother feels like she is having a nightmare as her son must repeat Top Class next year elsewhere because he could not score any worthy mark during his Primary One entry interview. Word has it that the unsuspecting mother was wondering why the teachers at the Kindergarten were putting her under immense pressure to just enrol the child into Primary One with them, considering interviews would be unnecessary since they already know the child as one of their best.
Schools out to impress
Sharon Amulo of Malaika Nursery and Primary School, Kansanga says some schools are out to impress parents hence want to put up activities such as music, dance, ballet, and the like without putting an emphasis on reading.
“Reading is the mother of all subjects so once a child learns to read, everything else becomes easy,” she says.
Amulo adds that children’s education should not be about parents’ status because even less costly schools can afford children a good education.
Grace Nakayi Bukenya, the headmistress of Gayaza Nursery School says teachers in all these pre-schools need to be vigilant as to assess the child’s performance. That way, they can ably tell if the child can make it to Primary One or not. “There are some learners who are naturally slow in learning despite the teacher’s efforts. The teacher needs to be able to notice this and inform the parent about the child’s performance,” she says.
However, some parents blame the child’s inadequacies on the teachers and Bukenya says these comments are common, more so in well performing schools where a parent thinks that their child has the ability, just like all the other well performing scholars, to excel. “In such instances, it is important that the teacher and the parent cooperate so they reach an understanding on what can be done to help the child,” he says.
Additionally, in all child centred schools, there is always follow-up of children hence the use of visiting days and class days where parents interact with teachers regarding the performance of their children. “If they are not contented, they can talk to the teacher’s immediate supervisor or even the head teacher to find out the problem at hand,” she says. In cases where parents do not show up for whatever reason, Bukenya says the teacher needs to keep in touch with the parents through a phone call or writing a note. “In our case, we diaries to parents detailing their child’s performance so that even when they do not turn up for the class days, they are able to tell what is happening at school,” she advises.
It is not to say that schools that offer all these extracurricular activities do not care about the children’s academics.
However, Amulo says parents should put an effort in following up such as checking on what the children’s learning, and looking through their books of homework.
“Some parents only wait to pick up the report at the end of the term. However, it is good to be inquisitive as to learn what the chid is doing at school. It should never be that what the teacher says is the gospel truth. That is also because some teachers are lazy and that can only be seen if the parent follows up on their child’s progress,” she says.
There are also instances where the child might also have been in a school where the teachers do not mind about how the child is performing yet changes environment and the parents hope the child will seamlessly join Primary One.
“The background in such a scenario, works against the child and will not pass the interview,” Bukenya says.
There are also some parents who want their children to skip classes because of age inasmuch as they know that their child is not ready for the next class. However, Bukenya says if they can cooperate with the teachers, the child can wait for another year. “If the teachers are good, this child will be able to get something out of the nursery section learning,” she says.
There is a belief that the teachers in these expensive schools are well remunerated as to dedicate as much time to the pupils as possible. However, Bukenya says in some of these schools, the curriculum is too simplified and academics are not given enough time.
“Some teachers look at them as nursery children, never wanting to give them tough academic content thinking they are still young. They forget that the higher classes demand that they do more hence the need for preparation. They also forget that inasmuch as these children are young, their level of understanding is high, therefore, babying them does not help their mind grow,” she says.
Not for the interviews
However, Knight Natamba Nkahebwa, the headmistress of Lorencia Junior School, has a different narrative to the story saying she does not expect a child going to Primary One to sit for an interview.
“At Lorencia, we believe this child has only been trained to play, associate as well as know how to live in society. Therefore, they are supposed to be introduced to reading and writing in P1,” she says. Nkahebwa expects this child to be empty who only went to school because the parents were not at home at this early stage. She also expects this child to be enrolled into Primary One at six years and the real learning would begin then.
However, she says kindergarten schools teach them using wrong methods, for instance, some teach them how to read yet they are not ready for it at that stage.
“Reading is learned in every individual but these children are simply pushed into it. Additionally, readiness to read is at different stages. Even when the child is six years, their reading ability may not be that developed as the next child yet even then, that is not reason for this child not to be enrolled in Primary One. That should not frustrate parents, rather, they should look for a school that can accommodate their child,” she says.
Nkahebwa adds that she prefers to receive a child who has not gone through formal education because they learn of their environment in an accidental way rather than forced. “On joining formal education, whatever they learn will be new and fruitful. Moreover, they will understand quicker than one who has been confused through formal kindergarten teaching,” she says.
She adds that when a child is taught in kindergarten, their brain is strained because the teachers are forcing knowledge to get into their minds inasmuch as they are not ready which leaves them in a worse state.
“In fact, some lose the morale for learning in Primary Three because their brains are ‘torn’. That is when the parents start complaining that their children are not understanding or appreciating school anymore,” she says.
Nkahebwa says they have received these and their way of helping them is by telling the teacher not to be hard on them though encourage them to follow in class.
“We then give the teaching mantle to their peers. We foster this by encouraging our pupils to share knowledge and that way, they will easily notice the one that is being left behind and jump in to help,” she says.
Another reason why Nkahebwa says it is not right to teach children during kindergarten is that writing strains their still developing limbs.
“Additionally, writing coordinates with the brain which is also akin to an egg that has just been laid. That is why subjecting them to classroom learning is damaging,” she says.
She believes that a child picked from a government school learns better than one from a private school.
“They are not taught out of what is ideal for them. The problem is that many teachers and parents think that these children ought to learn rather than play,” Nkahebwa says.