Tuition? That’s Not Really The Debate, Is It?
The past week has seen more focus on education, children, parents and teachers than any other time in our history. This thing called holiday tuition is very strange – in fact a bit of an oxymoron. My concern however is the clear need to address ways to engage our children beyond school and how to groom them, keep them out of trouble and at the same time find an outlet for their excess energy and creativity.
This is my opinion and you are welcome to yours. Extra school tuition is not the answer. Mutula Kilonzo has a point. I have no beef with the teachers who are happily cashing in and taking advantage of the fact that they are poorly paid and seeing, as parents are more than happy to offload their children onto them, why not make a buck while they’re at it?
But if as parents, we have the extra buck to spare to keep our children occupied and our wish is to see them learn and grow (I refuse to believe we simply don’t want them around) then why don’t we get creative about it. Calls to our studio last week from parents, teachers and most importantly, the students who said holiday tuition is a joke, told me one thing and one thing only – we need to find something meaningful, useful and even entertaining for our kids to do during their holidays.
Double math, double physics and triple biology is simply not the way. I do however have a caveat – if the student is in standard 8 or fourth form, by all means, include some holiday tuition geared at revising and going over areas of weakness – not to complete the syllabus. Throughout my childhood there was always a way to keep us occupied.
When I was in primary school, I spent most Saturday mornings at Faida Club in Kianda. There I learnt to sing, cook, sew, play an instrument and of course, was schooled in the Catholic faith through catechism classes. I meant kids from other backgrounds, saw and learnt different things from what we learnt in school and above all – used my time well. That was of my mother’s doing.
Our holidays were also consumed reading each and every Famous Five, Secret Seven, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys we could lay our hands on. Don’t tell me kids these days don’t want to read – it’s our fault, we have made reading a pain. We refuse to introduce them to fun-reading material. I still read – however right now I’m reading Lions On The Move by McKinsey and Company. By the way, you need to read Vision 2030 and this report almost side-by-side. It’s enough to make my teeth itch – I won’t kid you, it’s an easy read.
As Regina and I grew older and too big for Faida, we got chores to do. My mother, the last monarch – had us deliver and collect the dry-cleaning at White Rose, take shoes for mending (a habit I still have – Jalango is threatening to hold a harambee for new shoes for me) and even pay the telephone and power bills.
Yes, today there’s M-Pesa, but back in the day, it was all about keeping us busy. Please note we did these chores using public means. We got into a number 11 matatu and did our duties. Was my mother concerned about us being “tuned” by makangas, yes – but early on in life we learnt there was a fate worse than death – Mrs. Mutoko.
The makangas didn’t have a hope in hell. They thought we were snobbish – we were scared of mum. My mother also thought it was cool to send the house-help on leave for two weeks when we were on holiday. We vacuumed, cleaned, cooked, washed and ironed. I did my share back in the day. Curry powder in the gold tin was used well by yours truly. We still read – we devoured every book my Dad read – he was an avid reader.
I could finish a novel in two days. Stephen King, John Irving, Ken Follett, John, Le Carre, Danielle Steele, Tom Clancy, Sidney Sheldon were my personal friends. There wasn’t a Beano, Dandy, Tintin, Asterix or Archie I hadn’t read when I was a student. As we got older, we also spent time at Our Lady Queen of Peace.
There, we took part in plays, organised the church for Mass (Monday to Sunday) and even did the readings...ahhh, now you know where I got it from. We read still. The time was ripe for Mills & Boon, I was more a Barbara Cartland sort of girl. I never really graduated to Doctors and Nurses, I was onto Catherine Cook, Andrew Morton, the tax dodger Jeffrey Archer and Bill Bryson by then.
I met Tolkien and his Hobbit when I was on campus. The fact that Lord Of The Rings was all the rave a few years ago was rather puzzling for my sister and I. By the time I finished high school, my mother had me employed on Baricho Road and I have been working ever since. Indeed, if the mission is to keep children occupied and mentally engaged, then as parents we need to start looking at education holistically, it isn’t just about academics.
Let the debate rage on until we find the best option for our children – increased time on books isn’t it. Allow me to end this by quoting a caller on The Breakfast show last week: “… keeping two sets of angry people together for longer doesn’t help anyone. The students are resentful and angry at their teachers and parents; the teachers are fed-up of the students they must spend more time with and resentful of the parents who have abdicated their parenting roles‑who does this benefit, if at all?” Over to you.
From where I stand, bless that simple village girl from Kilungu (my mother) who came to Nairobi as a bride for having the foresight back then to understand that we needed to be occupied at all times – but not immersed in textbooks. We didn’t like all of the stuff she made us do, but looking back now, we get it and I am ever so grateful. There is more to learning than books.
Give Mutula a chance and if you can’t be bothered with him, then give your children a chance to really grow and learn, both in school and out of school. There is clearly a need and a gap in the market to occupy children during school vacation – let the more industrious among us start formulating the plan. It’s a sure win‑win for everyone.