Every year, as Form Ones matriculate into secondary schools, I get cordial invitations to guide them on how to begin, learn and win in secondary school.
For instance, when this year was still young and virgin, I went here and there: to do this and that. Especially this.
In a certain national school, one gutsy girl thought of seeking my comely counsel after the pep talk.
I listened to the young beautiful girl with some sort of rapt attention. She told me that her mom works in Turkey. Quite often, she jets back to the country to catch up with the family.
Then, the dad is in Kenya. He sells high-end cars. The only sister she has is studying in a top-tier international school, which offers the British Curriculum.
Somewhat, the Form One girl did her primary in an academy that attracts ‘cool kids’ in Nairobi. While there, she selected secondary schools just like other pupils, but her parents promised to take her to an international school: to taste the British curriculum.
Unfortunately, when Form One placements were out, she got a missive to join a national public secondary school based upcountry. When the invitation arrived, the parents changed their minds.
Therefore, I was talking to an intelligent student, but feeling disillusioned due to breach of promise.
This sends a strong message to parents who make promises to their children and then change. They default and forget that promises are debts.
For as a mentor to students, in this sad episode, I was talking to a mentee who was crest-fallen old leaf due to a puncture of promise.
Somehow, she was alone in the crowd, a galaxy of glamorous girls. In order to settle there, she needed a seismic shift in her mind.
Somehow, that is why we visit schools to champion change of attitude — mindset plus belief — in students.
In a heroic book titled Why Don’t Students Like School? Daniel T.
Willingham contents that good education should transform the mortal minds of students.
Likewise, parents and teachers should endeavour to understand the cognitive, affective and normative dimensions of children.
Arguably, in this case, the narration of the good girl painted a perfect picture of a learner hit hard by culture shock because she was in a school out of her status.
Perhaps, based on the economic status of her parents, she felt they should have honoured the promise.
But if not, due to some change only known to parents, at least parents could have spared some time, to explain the change of plan.
Dear reader, when I argue this way, it does not mean that I am locking out flexibility and adaptability as soft skills.
Actually, students who access success in school just adjust, adapt and advance.
Although, as we compel them to do so, we must balance optimism with realism.
Some parents take children to schools that make them struggle to fit in yet, with sensitivity, we can nurture a culture principle called ‘the joy of learning’.
Moreover, I heard about a certain tale of a Form Two boy in another national school whom conscience and conviction convinces me not to cite. One day, the boy gathered courage and went to the Principal’s office to narrate his woes and worries.
For he was struggling to catch up academically.
He felt the competition was stiff and the pressure was piling up.
Why that? Upon interrogation, the Principal established that the student cheated in KCPE. The many marks he scored that secured him the coveted chance in a national school were not real.
He was ‘assisted’ to pass with flying colours. Therefore, the boy sought permission to transfer to a school of his academic status.
Again, there is a sad episode still fresh in our mortal minds. A Form One student burnt a girls’ school in Nairobi. After the investigation of the cause of the fire, facts and findings shocked the nation to its roots.
The issue even went to court. Most education stakeholders posed the question: How would a Form One in her innocence and naivety turn to an arsonist?
Later, it came out clearly like Crystal that the government placed the girl in a certain school she was comfortable joining. Conversely, her parents had another school in mind, and as parents who believe in suppressing the voices of minors, they proceeded with their plans.
Therefore, the girl joined the school and conspired in her heart to ‘teach’ the parents an indelible lesson.
Perhaps, being young, she was oblivious that such an act was evil.
Therefore, as I conclude, in my whistle-stop tours in secondary schools, I strive to persuade them to develop a Positive Mental Attitude.
I do implore them to thrive in every place as Joseph son of Jacob did. I constantly inform them that places do not make people, but people make places. A lizard in Africa cannot be a crocodile in America.
In a broader sense, the argument is right. On the contrary, parents should take children to schools that match their status.
The status could be academic, economic, physical, et cetera. For children who are abled differently, it is advisable to take them to schools with professionals specialized to handle children with special needs.
I close my case.
By Victor Ochieng’
The writer is an editor, author and peripatetic public speaker.
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