It’s believed that helping learners build a future outside the classroom is vital.
Educationists suggest a balanced routine, with social skills well-accounted for as ‘education should be more than just books’.
How can they be helped?
Paul Swaga, an English instructor at Akilah Institute, Kigali, says parents and teachers should work together to encourage learners to participate in co-curricular activities by putting emphasis on the benefits associated with such doings.
He notes that some students shun these activities simply because they do not have adequate information on how the activities could be beneficial in the future.
Swaga says that for that reason, it’s vital for teachers and parents to step in and guide learners on what should be done and why.
“However, teachers should not force students to join activities like sports or clubs. They should interact closely with them and find out what their interests are and guide them on which activities they should take on as they pursue their career aspirations,” he says.
Paul Oga, the dean of students at Green Hills Academy, Kigali, says that it all depends on the needs of the school and its learners.
He notes that schools offer different co-curricular activities based on their policy and interests, as well as what they can offer based on the skills of their teachers.
“Not all students are gifted academically, therefore, teachers, parents or guardians should help them choose what they are good at and help them build that area of interest,” he says.
He points out that students who engage in extra-curricular activities learn to be responsible and manage their time better than those who don’t, and that to encourage this, paying attention to a student’s interest outside the classroom is important.
Oga says teachers should be in the position to guide students in choosing the right activities that will help them after school.
Also, he says it’s important for students to feel free to open up about their areas of interest and see if the school can accommodate them.
He says that sometimes, schools merely ask teachers to keep the students occupied, a habit he strongly condemns, urging that this is not the essence of extracurricular activities.
“These activities are supposed to enrich the system. Because teachers are trained in different areas, they should be able to identify the talent and interest in learners and guide them on how to go about it,” Oga says.
Erick Mugisha, an educationist at University of Rwanda’s College of Education, says there are a number of activities that students can embrace.
He notes that schools should have clear dates and time allocated for each grade or stage to have a certain kind of activity.
“This is important as it helps teachers identify the talent of each student and in so doing, making it easy for students to build it at an early stage,” he says.
This is a role for both parents and teachers; to make sure that students take on what they are good at.
Mugisha adds that mentors (parents and teachers) can help develop students’ talent through a number of ways; like providing the equipment necessary.
How should it be done?
Emmanuella Mahoro, a psychologist and youth mentor, says that it’s better to give students a platform to discuss the activities they would like present in their school.
She explains that if students are not passionate about a certain activity, they won’t put much thought into it or effort, no matter how much they are pushed to do it.
And this won’t last long, meaning that at the end of the day, a student who was not interested in participating in a certain activity to begin with, but was merely doing it because he/she was required to, will at some point drop it, which is a waste of time.
“At school, every minute counts for both students and teachers; if students are not interested in particular activities existing in their schools, as a teacher, finding something else for them to do saves time,” she says.
However, Mahoro says, there are instances when teachers and parents have to choose for students what to do as far as extra-curricular activities are concerned.
She explains that this is because some students get involved in activities only because that is what their friends are doing.
“If a child gets involved in an activity only because a friend is doing the same thing, it won’t yield any positive results in the end, therefore, parents and teachers have to step in,” she says.
For students to have a life outside the classroom, Mahoro says, they should be assessed by their teachers on what they can do.
She adds that it doesn’t matter what kind of activity a student shows interest in, the point is to help them do their best.
Parents, on the other hand shouldn’t be hard on their children, especially if they find out that the activity they are interested in doesn’t match their expectations.
“With good cooperation between a teacher, student and a parent, a child can be helped and guided on how to go about what they have shown interest in. This also helps them focus on one thing, which is essential as far as managing time is concerned,” Mahoro says.
Diane Nawatti, head teacher at Mother Mary Complex School in Kigali, says that focusing on the activity one is interested in helps a learner to develop commitment.
“Students who participate in co-curricular activities have a sense of commitment to whatever they are involved in. This is because as they take part in whatever sports or club activity they are a member of, they have to commit to it and give it their all, and this commitment extends to all other areas of their lives,” she says.
Nawatti adds that teachers should also let students interact with other students, within or outside their school, who have similar interests.
“This is important because the interaction can help in learning different things from one another and how they can do better. They also get a different perspective on things,” she says.
Nawatti adds that when students who balance academics and extracurricular activities get scholarships to study abroad after high school, the activity is an added advantage as most of the universities consider what more a student has to offer apart from academics.