Some 900,000 standard eight pupils finish their KCPE today and a good number of them will join secondary school in slightly over three month’s time. Unless we live in Mars, we can only pretend that their transition to high school life will be smooth. This makes their induction to high school life crucial.
In many secondary schools, the orientation of new students is often done haphazardly and as an afterthought. Often older students, the caretakers, are assigned the newcomers to show them around. When teachers orientate form ones in their classes, they may do it in their own ways. Given that students learn 10 odd subjects, there can be as many orientation modules as the teachers. The result is a confusion of goals and the new students may remember as much as they forget.
Where there is organised orientation, teachers often go through a stiff and frightening check list of dos and don’ts and it can be daunting for the new arrivals. Hardly does anybody put them on a mental frame to tackle the tasks and challenges ahead. Often, crucial and life-changing information is left for them “to learn in due course!” But like adults traveling to new places, standard eight pupils are bound to suffer the cultural shock of joining secondary school.
For example, the greatest shocker to some form ones is that pupils who were in the upper quartile of their primary school classes pull the tail once they do the first examinations in secondary school. In many national schools, a typical form one class often consists of pupils who ranged between number one and 10 in their former primary schools. But the number last, even with a respectable performance index, may not have been socialised in trailing in their primary school. Parents must sensitise the standard eight leavers about this worst case scenario and advice them accordingly lest the pupils develop a stigma of “failing” that may follow them with life long consequences if not handled carefully.
Parents can also use the long holiday either to counsel their children themselves or seek professionals who can sensitise them on the threat of drugs, homosexuality, lesbianism and cultism. In fact, any high school teacher-counselor and other youth minders can be useful in this regard. Of great importance here is building capacity of the pupils to spot such vices and say a loud no to all attempts at recruiting them.
An all round preparation for high school package should also include obvious but often ignored tips like bathing in cold water, doing ones laundry and such chores. Some academies employ armies of workers who do all these things for the pupils so that they reach form one totally clueless on how to polish their shoes or make their beds! Parents have three months to insist and ensure that their sons and daughters perfect these little chores. A good enforcement regime would be assigning them floor mopping and gardening duties around the home in addition to their normal personal responsibilities. They will certainly clean dorms and do manual work in school.
A tenacious academy effect that creeps into high school, sometimes with disastrous social consequences, is the repugnant behaviour of some pupils to snoop at everybody and report to the “management!” Let’s face it; many academies nurture a robust espionage system where pupils report about their teachers and support staff at the school owners’ behest. It could be customer focus, but some pupils often develop supervisory egos and lord it over their hapless teachers. But an entirely different law operates in public secondary schools. There are hierarchies of authority and students’ councils often sort out minor issues and escalate others to the teachers who may too take the matters higher to the principals. But some overzealous form ones often distinguish themselves as reckless whistleblowers on literally every issue and to multiple authority figures, simultaneously! And as is bound to happen in such situations, everybody gets fatigued with them and they earn the dubious distinction of “traitors” to other pupils — such a label may be devastating.
Therefore, it is imperative for parents to sensitise their standard eight leavers on absolute discretion when reporting certain issues and there are many ways of doing this in school.
Parents have a duty to lessen the apprehension of going to secondary school in the intervening period between now and February next year. The connection between secondary school and well paying jobs must be made clear to standard eight pupils at this early stage. This way, they remain on course in the four years of secondary school life.
The alternative of lack of such guidance is pupils who wade through secondary school without any ambition, goals or focus.