Why co-curricular activities are key to grooming versatile students

Activities outside the classroom, like sports, should be encouraged. / Net photo.

Co-curricular activities are believed to advance learners’ academic experiences. Apart from boosting inner talents such as leadership skills and public speaking, these activities set ground for producing seasoned students.

For example, when it comes to the job market, time and again, employers have emphasised that a degree alone is not indicative of a well-rounded graduate.

Therefore, because of the proven relevance of co-and-extra-curricular activities, it is important for schools to incorporate these activities on the school calendar. 

So what can learning institutions do to provide further development opportunities that would complement the academic curriculum?

Damien Nkurunziza, a principal at Kigali City School, believes that given the right tools, students will thrive in taking charge of their own development.

But to help them do that, he says, schools need to reassess their role as education providers.

“We should not just provide the opportunities for students to achieve good academic results, but actively promote the benefits of a wider curriculum to students. After all, learning institutions should be seen as a transformative experience through which students succeed in the many roles they choose to undertake in life,” Nkurunziza says.

Needless to mention, the education ministry has evaluated its efforts to recognise the importance and value of both academic curriculum and co-curricular activities in developing the range of skills and attributes that are important for graduates.

Nkurunziza also adds that much as students need the academic curriculum that enables them to develop their subject knowledge, academic literacy and a range of complimentary capabilities, it is not enough if you need a well-rounded graduate.

“Co-curricular activities make student’s learning process easier. This means that any activities that fall outside the academic curriculum — be it sports, entrepreneurial skills, debates, tutoring — should also be prioritised in a weekly schedule,” he says.

Nkurunziza, hence, encourages students to value these activities as part of their development.

For James Ndekezi, a university student and manager at Kwaanda Lab, a local company that was founded to solve issues using wireless technology, engagement with non-academic pursuits is not only beneficial to student development, but also known to be highly valued by employers.

“It may seem like a minor effort, but students should view these activities as equally important to academic study,” he says.

Key driver in academic performance

Sources from the Ministry of Education show a correlation between the number of extra-curricular activities schools offer and the proportion of pupils getting top grades.

They highlight that the more co-curricular activities an institution gives their students, the more they are likely to get students performing well, as opposed to those who don’t have access to such activities.

Olivier Minani, a teacher at Excella School, echoes similar sentiments pointing out that participation in extra activities raised pupil’s self-esteem and led to lower levels of depression and drop outs.

“The more schools offer these activities, the greater the likelihood pupils will find something they are good at. If a child knows they are good at something it helps them feel better,” he says.

According to Vanessa Gakuba Rutazibizwa, an assistant student career counsellor, there is so much pressure on students, especially in secondary schools, to perform well in their exams and attain high grades.

“This by all means is not wrong. Wanting students to perform exceptionally well in their exams is normal. The problem comes when students have no life outside their classrooms. When all they do and think about is books. This will give them no room for their development as human beings,” she reiterates.

According to Irenee Ndayambaje, Director General at the Rwanda Education Board, co-curricular activities are just as important as academics.

“They complement each other to develop a well-rounded student with more social skills than one who only concentrates on their books. Education goes beyond just schools,” she notes.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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