Teaching social skills has become one of the most significant teaching strategies in education today. The lack of these skills, experts say, is the biggest contributing factor to the downfall of almost any type of teamwork today.
Fortunately, social skills and effective communication can be taught. Educators are advised to not just focus on academics, but also the skills that will help learners outside the school environment, experts say.
Educationists believe that if students are only made to focus on subjects offered in the syllabus, chances are that they will lack a lot in their lives as the real world requires more than that.
Silver Busonozi, the dean of students at Riviera High School, says such skills are important for students because they will pave the way to success in their careers.
Simon Ssematengo, a chemistry and mathematics teacher, says being educated doesn’t mean having the ability to explain what one learnt in school. It goes beyond that.
This, he says, fades as learners leave the school environment, and what remains is additional skills. There are many things considered in the workforce.
For instance, Ssematengo says one of the most important traits a person can have is respect. He explains that educators should caution learners on being respectful, and not just to elders, but their peers too.
He says this starts with discipline amongst students. Schools should have rules and regulations, and if a student doesn’t observe them, appropriate punishment should be considered.
“In almost all schools, suspensions and expulsions are given to those who are undisciplined. Parents should work closely with teachers to ensure that learners embrace appropriate manners,” he says.
Eliaza Ndayisaba, a discipline teacher at Mother Mary Complex Kigali, says character is also important.
He says schools should build character in their learners, as these are personal skills they can use after they complete school.
Ndayisaba explains that when character is built in students right from the early stages to higher levels of learning, it is easier for them to carry on like that even in adulthood, which is important.
He notes that things like ensuring all students know their national anthem, respect uniform, and so on, are just examples of building good appeal.
Ssematengo says that competence is another vital skill every student should possess. In many schools, great performers are rewarded which encourages competition and creativity.
He says that this is applied in the workforce, where promotions are given to people who have gone an extra mile doing their work. And this stems from school where certificates are awarded to students who work hard and do well.
He adds that interpersonal relations should be considered in schools. He explains that no establishment will tolerate an employee who doesn’t know how to communicate with clients or interact with colleagues.
“Teachers should encourage learners to treat each other the way they would like to be treated. So, if a teacher spots a learner disturbing another, sitting has to change with immediate effect,” he says.
Also, he says, schools should encourage learners to be neat at all times. This starts from the way they dress, carry themselves and even in their school work.
Monica Mbabazi, a teacher and business expert, believes that learners should always be clean and smart, as this has an impact on their studies.
She explains that in the employment world, no client will associate with a shabby looking person.
“Actually, we all want clean things, therefore, we look out for people who can deliver that,” she says.
She says that the moment she spots an unhygienic stall, a U-turn defines her next move. She says teachers should be at the forefront to act as an example to their students.
Mbabazi says some companies have gone the extra mile and prefer that their employees wear uniform, just to look smart, but also, to attract clients.
She says that all this starts in school, for example, schools ensure that all students wear full uniform and have combed hair, and so on.
Role of schools and parents
Vincent Kagera, a parent and a PTA member at GS Rugando School, says teachers and parents have to work together for a better outcome regarding young people.
He says, for example, if a learner misbehaves at school, the head teacher, or those in charge of discipline, should be able to reach out to the parents and have a discussion in the presence of the student.
“First of all, students have to learn to own up to their mistakes. Teachers should note the learner’s behaviour and what school rules and regulations state,” he says.
Aminadhad Niyoshunti, an English teacher at Apaper Complex School in Kicukiro, says that parents should take the lead to ensure that they raise their children in a way that will see them successful in life.
“There are some parents who like to spoil their children and this is not helpful. By working closely with the school, such behaviour can be changed if teachers explain the repercussions,” he says.
He adds that teachers should learn how to treat students fairly; they should not discriminate in any way. This will encourage students to do the same outside the school environment, to treat all people fairly and with respect.
With these traits, students can learn how to interact with their peers, maintain a conversation, and develop personal dialogues with their classmates, which will help them in their careers.