In my former secondary school, it was compulsory for every student to join at least two clubs. The clubs to pick from included the Debating Club, Youth Alive, Young Christian Students and Interact among others.
For either lack of knowledge about the importance of clubs or out of naughtiness, some students protested against this rule and only participated as observers in their clubs. The same is still true today with some opting to concentrate on their books or go home instead of joining others in club activities. But are clubs of any value to a child’s life anyway?
Teachers, students discuss benefits
Ronald Wandira, a history teacher at Riviera High School, explains that a number of life skills can be acquired from school clubs since eligibility for membership is less strict.
“The fact that these clubs do not discriminate against any one means it is possible to have students from Senior One up to Senior Six all united under one umbrella which gives everyone an opportunity to learn from each other,” says Wandira.
To drive his point home, Wandira cites the Martial Arts club at the school which equips students with self defence mechanisms on top of training them to control their temper.
“Students meet for training at least once a week. These sessions promote unity in the group and impart important values like discipline which remains part of their life even after school,” Wandira adds.
For Sandrine Mukakagina, a teacher at Groupe Scholaire Gisozi, anyone who wants to become confident and a better communicator must join the debating club.
“Those who participate in debates regularly usually have better communication skills than those who don’t,” Mukakagina explains.
She also believes clubs can play a parent’s role in some cases.
“There are topics that most parents shy away from discussing with their children. However while with their peers in these clubs, students tend to be more open about issues of sex and in the process learn one or two helpful things under the guidance of an adult teacher,” Mukakagina adds.
And Nathan Kayonga, a student of ESSA school of Science and Administration in Kanombe, is one such example.
“I have obtained sufficient information about sexually transmitted infections from the Anti Aids Club (Anti Sida) and the Interact club at school,” he says.
Clubs also have the glue that holds friendships together for a long time. Eloi Mugabe, a former student at College St Andre, says: “I left school sometime back but I have been able to keep in touch with my old friends because we still keep track of our former clubs’ activities. For instance I am still a member of the Peace and Love Proclaimers Club, the Debating Club and the Writers Club at my former school.”
Fabrice Ishimwe, a student at College du Christ roi in Nyanza, explains that through debating competitions, he has improved his communication skills and also met influential people.
“Every time I participate in a debate I meet new people who might help me in future,” Ishimwe says.
Parents and old club members discuss
Leila Dusabe, a resident of Kicukiro and member of the Rotaract which she joined way back in school, says she met most of her current friends in that club.
Theophile Uweseyimana, a teacher at Ecole Primaire de Kibagabaga, echoes a similar view to that of Dusabe.
“Most benefits of being a member of a school club may not be realised immediately but later in life. Because club members usually have similar interests, they easily maintain friendship and venture into different things together,” he says, adding that clubs like those of science have often been stepping stones to bigger innovations.
“Many active students who have developed simple gadgets while still at school in their respective science clubs have gone on to make bigger innovations in life,” Uweseyimana adds.
Some parents, however, argue that today’s clubs are no longer as active as the old days.
Tumwine Didas, a parent in Remera, says their Scouts Club many years ago was very active and competitive.
“After undergoing training at school, we would go for further preparation in the camps. In the camps we were taught a number of survival skills like setting up fire but today very few schools have such active establishments,” Tumwine says. “It is no surprise therefore that many students cannot prepare a simple meal.”
HOW CAN CLUBS BECOME ACTIVE?
Being a member of a school club is very important but unfortunately most of them are not very active. The clubs should begin visiting their counterparts in other schools so that they interact and share experiences.
Competition is needed among these clubs. For instance if it is a sports club, members should be able to train together, form teams and compete against each other. In case it is a drama club, teachers can also organise competitions and you will see how active members will be.
Although most students don’t like joining school clubs, they are important in shaping character. I think parents should also take interest in the activities their children get involved in and always offer them the emotional and financial support that they might need to travel or buy costumes.
Since we all agree that clubs are important, both parents and school administrators should work together to ensure that clubs are active. Some groups like the Anti-Aids club need professional people to educate members about the disease.
Clubs help students develop their talent. For instance the Writers Club helps members write better essays hence better performance in the exams. They can also start writing articles for newspapers at a young age. Besides teaching concepts, teachers should get more involved in clubs.