How to keep kids learning during school holidays

As schools break off for the long third term holiday, learners are expected to use this time to refresh their minds and take a break from school work. However, education experts say learning should be incessant, even during the holidays, and that parents should ensure this happens.

Elijah Niyongabo, a disciplinary teacher in the Northern Province, says that when people talk of learning, it doesn’t necessarily refer to school work only; it involves many things, including instilling good morals in learners.

He says utilising this time to shape the lives of learners is important as there is so much to learn, and time to do it.

What to do and expect

Jerome Hakizimana, a tutor at Teachers Training College, Muramba, Ngororero District, and a national teacher’s trainer, says most parents have unrealistic expectations when it comes to their children while at school; they think everything should, and must be done by the teachers.

He explains that beyond basic expectations, such as students learning and being safe at school, some parents tend to think that it’s solely the role of teachers to spot their children’s potential in different areas and guide them towards achieving the best of their abilities.

He says this also includes expecting the same instructors to mould their children to be morally upright in all aspects.

“This is ridiculous and needs to be changed. Since learners spend most of their time at school, holidays are the perfect time for parents to help out as much as possible,” he says.

He says when students go home for holidays, parents expect them to be well mannered, to have respect and discipline and all that, and if this doesn’t happen, they (parents) get overwhelmed and frustrated to the point that they fail to handle their own children.

“This can lead to parents doing things beyond their control. For instance, viewing their children as failures, or even comparing them to other children who are better behaved, forcing them to emulate them, forgetting that they should be the ones to instil this discipline first,” he says.

Athanasie Vuguziga, an English teacher at GS Nkondo in Kayonza District, feels that parents should use holidays, and any time they have with their children, to provide a solid support system as far as education is concerned.

By doing this, she says, learners will be able to develop a sense of passion and purpose, which will make them do better in all areas.

“When learners are driven by a sense of passion and purpose, they are not only guaranteed good outcomes in and out of school, they will also be able to know why achieving such goals is important to them,” he says.

Francois Xavier Ngabonzima, a language teacher doing internship at European Institute for Education and Psychological Research, says in order to plan what students should do at home, parents need to be prepared in advance and know when the schools are breaking off for holidays.

He says though this may sound awkward, there are some parents who don’t even know when their children will be coming home for holidays. But when they are aware, it helps them plan accordingly.

For instance, Ngabonzima says, they can plan on how their children will spend their time productively, by assigning specific tasks and chores to go with academic work.

“A good parent will always take a look at their children’s report cards, this will even guide them on how to help them. It will also determine if such children need more help academically,” he says.

Ngabonzima says parents should keep their children’s behaviour under control, especially during the holidays. He says this is the time where most of them, especially teens, get tempted to join bad company and end up drinking alcohol or indulging in other risky and dangerous habits.

How to handle this

Ngabonzima says being uninformed also has an impact on the process of handling students at home.

He says parents should be able to associate a certain attitude with a disorder, or with age. In this case, such parents will give efficient support — emotional, psychological, among others.

He notes that corporal punishments should be avoided; in case of indiscipline, parents should interact with their children and find out what makes them misbehave.

“By doing this, it’s easy to figure out an appropriate way to handle the problem, and at the same time, help the child realise their mistake and find ways to not repeat it,” he says.

Hakizimana says it’s of utmost importance for some parents to also get guidance on how they can help their children at home.

Also, he says, encourage learners to read for fun; buy them story books or novels, not just text books.

“This is because many learners, even those in secondary school, have a problem when it comes to reading and writing, so using their free time to go through simple books can boost their reading skills,” he says.

Hakizimana adds that parents should understand what their children are capable of and drive them to do it, especially when it comes to extra-curricular activities.

Vuguziga says parents shouldn’t use this time to force their children to take up courses they aren’t interested in, just because they think they are profitable.

They should instead encourage them to follow their heart and go for what they are comfortable with.

“As far as parental involvement in children’s education is concerned, they need to know what their children can do and follow up on it. And this should be done right from the early years,” she says.

Niyongabo says all this can be achieved by parents working closely with teachers and using students’ report cards to analyse their performance to provide the way forward.

“Using the above means will be helpful, but also, it’s important to have clear communication and discussions with learners to know their sentiments as well, he says.

Ngabonzima says Local Government should also step in, especially during the holiday, to organise community activities mainly focusing on awareness campaigns, such as new HIV/AIDS prevention, how to work together as a community, issues affecting the youth, among other initiatives. 

This, he says, should be made entertaining and informative, so that the youth get the enthusiasm to attend such events.