At this time of the year, all stakeholders in education are preparing for beginning of the first school term-2020 in Uganda. Learners, parents/guardians, teachers and school administrators together with the line ministry are all busy planning for a successful 1st term 2020. The ministry of education and sports has already released the schools’ and other institutions’ calendar for 2020 that will run for 38 weeks. This implies that a child will be in school much of the time of the year, as out of 52 weeks in a year, 38 weeks will be for school time.
In a circular to all primary, secondary, technical schools and community polytechnics heads, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education and Sports, Alex Kakooza scheduled the first term to start on Monday, February 3rd, 2020, and run through to May 1st, 2020. First and second terms will both run for 89 days while 3rd term will be slightly shorter, running for 82 days. Learners will then have a three-week holiday before opening for each term. Schools avoid wastage and loss of teaching and learning time at the beginning and end of the term. It’s vital for Lessons to start promptly and terms not to be cut short by schools without government clearance since its mandatory that a school calendar should be adhered to. The ministry has made it clear that all boarding schools should designate only one day a term as a visiting day and on a daily basis, classes should start at 8:00 am and end not later than 5:00pm. Many parents/guardians and their children are already purchasing school requirements; creating a lot of anxiety. The anxieties of children going back to school not only affect the children but also the parents/guardians, teachers, school administrators and teachers.
Children feel the gap when, without any preparation, they have to go to school after two months of rest. Going back to school for children is definitely not easy. Therefore, with my professional experience as an educationist and a parent, I have tried to analyse how to make it easier for school children to get set for school and easily adjust after two months of holidays. Many children don’t even want to hear about school. Some children feel worried and stressed as the beginning of the school term approaches. If this is the case with your children, pay attention. Talk to your children and make sure that these feelings are natural. Also, try to change their perception of the school from a scarecrow to a place where they learn a lot, to meet their classmates again, to tell them about the holiday experiences and where they will surely experience a lot of fun stories. Whether or not parents like it, every school year requires investment in new school requirements, from writing instruments to new uniform and casual wears. If you perceive these tasks yourself as an obligation or even a necessary evil, your children will perceive it as well.
Change this perspective and make your joint mission a gritty purchase of new equipment. For example, buying a ball pen or school bag can be fun and adventurous, in which you explain to your children how to choose when shopping and take into account the practicality or price of the product. Discuss the shopping list with your children democratically and agree on necessary items only. Agree on what item to remove from the list with explanation.
Getting set for school and catching up with daily school routine can be daunting. Have you ever jumped into a hot bath only to jump right back out because you discovered the water was unbearably hot? If this has ever happened to you, then you probably know that the best way to get yourself adjusted to a hot bath is to heat the water up gradually. Use the same approach of gradually transitioning from relatively easy holiday schedule to a busy school routine. During the last week in a holiday, adjust your activities at home; for example wake up slightly early, start reading books and tighten a bit your schedule and if possible, shut down the television set to sleep early. This will help you to adjust quickly to school routine when you report.
It’s a good practice for a parent/guardian and teachers to identify what is new at school. Make your children a new school year of adventure. Explain about the academic activities, the excursions, leisure activities, co-curricular activities and bring out the positive side of being in school. Some parents and teachers think that scaring the child that education is complicated is a motivating factor. Remember, some children would want to engage more in education as fun making.
Let the children understand that end of year holidays do not stop there. After all, there are still 1st and 2nd terms, Easter and other holidays in a year. Though children will probably feel sorry for the holidays, remind them of all the days off. They will have to stay in school for a few months, but then they will enjoy more holidays yet to come.
Few weeks before the start of school, sort through your child’s belongings and ensure that no toxic substances are in there. Exercise books, ball pens, pencils and erasers, notebooks: list the purchases to make and discard the broken items, useless notebooks of the previous year and other leaking pens. Do the shopping early enough to avoid the congestion in markets and hiked prices.
When your child is ready, ensure that the school requirements checklist is fully covered. In case you are affected by January financial strain that comes after festive season spending, please eat your pride and visit the head teacher to agree on a flexible payment plan or look out for a school fees loan from any financial institution.
Most importantly, ensure that your children report to school on time. If possible, do not delegate the responsibility of taking your children to school as it may lead to negative consequences. I always tell parents that if you are unable to pay fees for your child in the first one month in a term, then that school is not meant for you….look for a suitable one for your child to avoid social challenges for your child.
By Micheal Tumwesigye
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