At the beginning of every term, most boarding schools ensure that every learner’s luggage is thoroughly checked by a teacher or administrator to ensure that they don’t sneak in prohibited material such as alcohol and drugs.
While leaving for holidays, however, teachers are not so strict on what students carry out of school in their suitcases. With the third term holiday just (or about) started, education experts advise that when children return for holidays, parents should check their children’s luggage to establish whether they lost anything or possess property that they cannot account for.
Augustine Gatera, the director Unit of Languages and Humanities in the Curriculum and Pedagogical Material at Rwanda Education Board, says: “Children tend to become comfortable with other peoples belongings at school. Personally, I would want to find out what is in that suitcase,” says Gatera.
Should you find strange possessions, Gatera says, you should investigate the reason and the solution to the habit.
“Immediately, I land on material that does not belong to him, I separate it from the rest, force him to reach out to the owner, apologize and return it,” he adds.
Much as some parents may perceive suitcase checking as a minor issue, Beatrice Ampire, a teacher at little Bears Montessori in Kimihura, believes such laxity can easily evolve into theft. “Once you don’t cross check, it is very easy for a child to carry materials from other students and the behaviour is likely to worsen in future.”
She also argues that students who are rarely grilled by parents over possession of other materials end up performing poorly even in school.
“As a parent, teaching the child begins when they are still young. If you show that you don’t care, they think they can get away with everything and become complacent leading to substandard performance,” she adds.
Eliazar Ndayisaba, a teacher at Mother Mary Complex, believes that checking helps to determine how effectively materials bought at the beginning of the term were utilized.
“For instance if you bought books and text books, you need to check and find out if they were helpful or not lost,” Ndayisaba says.
He also warns that failure to check allows illicit materials to find their way into the home. “The worst thing would be for a student to carry drugs home.”
Joshua Tahinduka, the president of Rwanda Pros Toastmasters, a club that trains students in improving communication skills, considers crosschecking of luggage as the only form of accountability for lazy students.
“It is the easiest way to teach students the value of responsibility and accountability. That way, they easily open up on how the term went. They also learn the best ways of securing their belongings,” Tahinduka says.
However, not all students who leave school with new material acquire them by stealing. “There is no problem with buying a trouser or shirt using excess cash. This is the best way to promote a savings culture. In fact some shy girls find it easier to save for their menstrual pads,” says Ronald Wandira, a history teacher at Riviera High School
He, however, maintains need to find out whether the materials bought are not just destructive. “Materials such as mobile phones and pornographic content are destructive. In big homes, children have everything in their bedrooms, so if you don’t check their luggage on coming back, they end up spending more time in their bed room watching porn than interacting with other family members,” he adds.
The Education Sector Policy also calls for involvement of parents and communities in the management of the schools activities. Under the arrangement, it is also possible for parents to evaluate their children and report any concerns even to the authorities.
Parents put blame on schools
Most of the parents who spoke to the Education Times believe schools should do more regarding supervision of students.
Florence Mugwaneza, a parent in Kicukiro, blames the habit of carrying harmful materials home on school administrators’ negligence. “Even before the child collects his or her belongings from the dormitory, those in charge should be in position to ascertain that everything in the suitcase is lawful and belongs to them.”
Bosco Iyakaremye, a parent who resides in Kimihurura, echoes Mugwaneza’s views saying that there is no use of grabbing gadgets that have been used at school for the whole term. “If it is a video game or a phone, it means he has been using it at school during the term. Although seizing it at home helps, it is much more beneficial if school authorities got wind of it early,” Iyakaremye says.
Aloysius Manzi, also a parent, says failure to check your child’s luggage can easily breed drug abuse.
“You just can’t assume that your child is perfect and that you won’t check their suitcases. The fact that most times children are idle during holidays makes it easy for them to consume drugs and alcohol,” Manzi explains.
However, Sebastian Nzitonda who checks his child’s suitcases regularly believes it is better if done secretly.
“As soon as my daughter reports back home, I am always curious to check but not necessarily on the first day. I prefer to do it secretly because I find out more,” Nzitonda explains.
What do students think?
Vanessa Uwimana, a senior six student at Apaper Complex School, says her parents check her suitcase as soon as she arrives home from school.
“My mother makes sure I unpack everything because she hates it when I carry make up and earrings,” Uwimana explains.
Erick Umuhire, a senior two student at Apade Secondary School, says he is hardly ever checked since he is a day scholar. “I come home early so they don’t bother to check my bag. All that my father is interested in is my books — whether I have notes and if my assignments are done,” Umuhire says.
Yvonne Umuhoza, a student at Saint Patrick School, says her luggage is only checked at the beginning of a new term, not at the end. Even then, the checking is for different reasons. “At the end of a term, my parents are only interested in my report card. However when I am leaving for school, they check just to find out if I have everything I need,” Umuhoza says.
What if a student brought home things that aren’t theirs?
Jane Mutuyimana, a teacher at Mubano Primary school
If you know your child, you will know if they are lying about the source of the things they have brought home. This will make decision-making easier. You might need to collaborate with teachers in counselling and follow-up.
Robert Palisin, a teacher in Kigali
If the things are stolen, I take them back to school and talk to the administration about tough punishment options just to make the student realize that what they have done is wrong.
Saie Ndahayo, a father of two
As a responsible parent, you should always follow up your children both at school and at home to make sure they don’t mess up in any way. This will prevent them from taking things that aren’t theirs.
Helen Nsingizwe, a student at University of Rwanda
You should always check your child’s suitcase when they are going to school and when they come home. If they possess something suspicious or strange, find out where and when they got it. It will teach them to be careful.
Rachael Nyiranzeyimana, a parent
If my child has stolen the things, I find out why. It could be because I failed to provide some necessities. In this case, I will try to talk to them and tell them that one should always be satisfied with the little they have.
Jean Damasene Maniragaba, Kacyiru resident
I would first interrogate that student to find out why he/she has such things. However, I’m also aware that some students lie. Therefore, before making any decisions, I would follow-up with the student’s friends to match the responses.