When students were going back to school for first term in January, their parents appealed to them to read hard so that they pass their exams highly. Indeed a child’s success is always a source of pride for any parent. However, not everyone can come on top of their class. Naturally, some of the learners will bring home report cards that only deliver bad news. So how do you react when your child brings a bad report card?
Parents share experiences
Cedric Nkuriyikinfura, a parent in Gikondo, says he deliberately stopped getting excited about his children’s report cards because they would always accuse his child/children of indiscipline such as absenteeism despite them leaving home for school early every day. That goes without saying that the performance used to be poor.
“I got disappointed with my daughter and told her never to bring me a bad report again. When she does, I don’t hide my dissatisfaction. We can only share a table if the marks prove that some hard work was invested during the course of the term,” Nkuriyikinfura says.
But class positions are not his centre of focus. His interest is whether there has been an improvement or decline from the previous term.
“If the average score is much better than before, I express my appreciation to my child but urge her to strive for better grades the following term.
Betty Mukeshimana, a market vendor in Nyabugogo, says poor performance is not an option for her child.
“His elder brother, who knows English, looks at the report card first then explains to me everything. Based on what I am told, I sit down with the child and we see how to address the issue,” Mukeshimana says, adding that she also pays particular interest to the fees structure.
However, some parents think it would be wrong to put all the blame on the child.
Adelin Uwase, a parent, says: “Some teachers are not articulate which means they can’t explain some topics well. How then do you expect the child to excel?”
Teachers blame parents, students
Moses Murwanashyaka, a teacher at Group Scholaire Aiper Nyandungu, argues that it would be wrong for parents to claim that teachers are the cause of their children’s poor performance.
“All students receive the same knowledge and training. So why do some excel and others perform poorly? There could be other factors affecting their performance,” Murwanashyaka explains.
He advises parents to first think about the family background before heaping blame on teachers and students.
“Students who come from organized families usually perform better than those from broken homes. Parents must also assess whether they give their children all the necessary support in their studies,” Murwanyashaka advises.
He further wonders why parents blame teachers for their children’s poor performance but never thank them when the results are good.
About how to handle suspension culprits, Murwanyashaka says they should be made to realize how serious their case is.
“Students who have been expelled or suspended from school should not be handled with kid gloves. But once the dust has settled, it is advisable to take them for counselling to raise their morale,” Murwanyashaka adds.
Luis Sinamenye, the discipline master at GS Butare de Catholique, advises parents to be strict on their children especially if their performance is poor.
“Children usually spend most of their holiday time with their friends. If parents could insist that their children use this time for revision, performance would definitely improve the following term,” Sinamenye advises.
Some parents have also been blamed for ‘spoiling’ their children all in the name of love.
Pius Bogere, a teacher, reveals: “I know some parents nearly fought with teachers for writing ‘negative’ comments on their children’s report cards. Instead of asking the children to explain their unseriousness or indiscipline, the parents instead confront teachers for pointing out such issues.”
He, however, admits that sometimes a teacher may not give his everything due to low pay or unpaid arrears hence affecting the student’s performance.
Damien Ntaganzwa, the director general in charge of teacher development and management, Rwanda Education Board, condemns teachers who use the salary card as an excuse not to perform maximally given the various initiatives government has put in place to improve their livelihoods.
According to Ntaganzwa, teaching is a calling and not a business.
“A good teacher joins the profession because he is dedicated to deliver knowledge and educate the nation and should produce good results at the end of the term,” he insists.
Speaking from experience, most students who talked to Education Times testified that every parent frowns when slapped with a bad report card.
Vicky Mushikiwabo, a tourism student at GS Aiper Nyandugu, says the day she took a bad report card to her mother was the day her freedom to visit friends ended.
“I was told to stay at home and read most of the time. I only visited friends once in a while,” she explains, adding that it taught her to get more serious with her studies.
“A timetable has become part of me whether I’m at school or home for holidays and my performance has improved significantly,” Mushikiwabo adds.
Sifa Umuhoza, also a student, says a bad report card disappoints both parents and friends. However, she says no one has a right to shout at her for failing her exams.
“I have no problem with being criticized but I get demoralized when I’m insulted for failing,” Umuhoza argues.
Emmy Mugiraneza, a student at Lycee de Ruhango, also agrees with Umuhoza, insisting that a parent’s bad comments only serve to discourage her.
“I once performed poorly and I was shouted at several times but this worsened things,” Mugiraneza explains.
Is your child struggling with school? Here is how to help them
1. Stay calm:
Recognize that you are not solely responsible for your child’s academic success. When your child comes home with a bad grade, get objective. Tell yourself, “My son came home with a “D.” That is too bad. What is he missing that he needs help with? What can I help him do so that he can succeed and take responsiblity for his work?”
2. “You are so smart!”:
Don’t praise your child for his intelligence, saying things like, “You are the brightest kid I know!” Instead make sure to praise him for working hard and for persevering at a difficult task. Children who are praised for putting in effort are more likely to keep trying when they encounter setbacks. They know they have control over their ability to learn. Children who are told they are smart have a harder time with school. They give up when they have to complete assignments that leave them feeling “not-so-smart”
3. Don’t get mad:
Instead of reacting to your child’s poor grade with anger respond with kindness and understanding. If you respond in frustration to your child’s less than perfect schoolwork, you actually decrease your child’s motivation to learn. It is important to periodically say, “I hope you know I love you no matter what your grades are.” Try to place the responsibility for his schoolwork back on your child where it belongs. Try saying, “I am sure you are disappointed with your grade. Let me know if I can help you or support you in anyway.”
4. Avoid power struggles:
When we engage in power struggles with our children all learning stops. Children cannot learn when they are upset. We need to avoid the downward spiral into conflict. We can say, “I will always love you. I want you to make good choices in life even about school. I have faith that you can turn yourself around. I will always be here if you need some suggestions.”
5. Keep your relationships positive:
The best thing you can do for your children is to maintain a loving relationship with them. Children who feel loved unconditionally will more likely do well in school. Don’t let your child feel that your approval is based on his grades. It is a recipe for disaster. Instead of wasting your energy on managing your child’s schoolwork develop ways to spend quality time with your child. It is a better use of time.
6. Talk to teachers:
Set up a meeting to talk to your son’s teachers. Make sure to set a positive tone to the meeting. Start the conversation in a non-confrontational way: “I have been noticing a decline in Sara’s grades, have you noticed anything? Is there anything I can do at home to help him? What is your opinion of her academic performance?”
Parents share their views
Brian Mark Kasawuli
It feels bad when your child performs poorly but one should appreciate that there are many factors that affect a child’s grades. It might not even be the child’s problem but rather parents and teachers. A parent should look at all possible causes of the problem before tackling it.
You can’t be happy when your child fails exams. However, you must be very careful how you handle them otherwise you could worsen things. The first step is to establish why the child performed poorly. For instance, did you as a parent facilitate your child with basics such as books, school fees, etc?
Much as I would be disappointed by my child’s poor performance, I would continue to hope for the best. I would follow up with the teachers in order to find out where the problem lies. This is where a parent’s advice comes in handy.
I would be angry if my child brought me a bad report but I would instead focus on finding a solution. One of the solutions would be to use the holiday productively. I would make a reading time table for them and ensure that it is followed.
Shelagh . R.
It wouldn’t be good to blame the child for their poor performance. I see it as an opportunity to find out what could be going on in your child’s life and fix it. When you probe further, you might find that you (the parent) or the teacher is the problem. You need to look at the big picture objectively in order to get a solution.
If my child got poor grades, I would try to remain calm so that I can win the child’s trust and confidence. This would help me get to the root of the problem. I would also find out whether it is me, the teacher, or the child who is to blame. I’m sure a solution would be found after establishing the cause of the poor grades.