The New Year is upon us and most people have already outlined the resolutions they intend to pursue in the next 365 days. One common trend around the beginning of every new academic year is that many students, for one reason or another, will change schools.
The aim is ideally to get a better education. However, parents and students alike ought to realise that changing schools can actually bring more harm than good.
When Charles Kananga moved to work upcountry, he went with his children as well.
He established a law firm to ‘escape’ the tight competition in the city, and as a parent, he sought it wise to go with his children for better monitoring.
Over time, Kananga succeeded getting more clients and making more money, but the new upcountry school for his child proved disastrous.
“My child’s academic performance dropped drastically. He used to come among the top five in the former school, but now she is struggling,” he says.
Her teachers say that part of the student’s challenge is because she is ‘shy in class’ and does not participate actively in discussions or during lessons.
However, this was not her character before, and clearly, it is obvious that changing schools has affected the performance of Kananga’s child.
Despite the reasons for changing schools for children, such as change of employment, parents should carefully weigh the benefits of changing the school, which should be discussed by all parties affected, especially in such a long holiday to avoid stress at the beginning of the year.
Educationists share tips
Ruth Mwizerwa, a teacher at Groupe Scolaire Ndera, says when a parent is considering changing schools for the child, the consent of the latter should be sought first to make sure that the child is well-conversant with the changes and their interests are factored.
“However, parents shouldn’t be misled by the mere wishes of the child; instead they need to first find out if the aspirations of the student are reasonable,” she says.
Herbert Turinawe, a teacher at King David Academy, Kigali, says before parents move their children to new schools, they should look at how the new environment will enhance the career choices of the students, their interests and should cater for their favourite subjects.
“You may find that a student who is interested in drama and arts is taken to a school that lays more emphasis in sciences. That student is likely not to cope well, later on enjoy the subjects being taught. Instead, the performance will just decline,” he says.
Turinawe emphasises that students shouldn’t be moved to a new school without their consent.
“When some students complete Senior Three, for instance, they may be interested in a vocational career such as weaving, tailoring or plumbing though a big number of parents still tend to disregard vocational education. Parents instead end up taking their children to mainstream schools because they want them to be politicians or lawyers despite the realities in the job market and their children’s desires,” he said.
For Dieudonne Niyonzima, a teacher at Groupe Scolaire Gasogi, there are many academic challenges involved in changing schools.
“Change of the school environment also comes with the change of teachers. Yet, not all teachers use the same methodology; some are talented in explaining and making learning fun, while others may be boring and very technical. A change in the learning environment will definitely negatively affect the new student if it’s not as conducive as in their former school,” he says.
Niyonzima emphasises that familiarity between the teachers and students is very essential in bringing out the best in a child academically because the learner feels free to consult the teacher whenever the need arises.
“Adaptation to a new environment takes a long time and the student gets stuck in the transition. That’s why parents need to take time and compare the schools before switching their children. A rushed decision can be costly in the longrun,” he says.
Joyce Kirabo, a psychologist and social counsellor based in Kigali, contends that students at the primary school level are most affected by the changing of school than their counterparts in secondary.
“When learners are very young, their mental ability is very weak. Therefore, we believe that a child at that level is affected by the change of the environment and their academic performance and motivation at large are easily compromised,” she says.
Alex Mushumba, the head teacher of Nyamata High School in Eastern Province, concurs with Kirabo. He says that changing schools does not seriously affect students at the secondary level.
“At secondary school level, changing schools affects students less since they are grown enough to cope with the new environment.”
According to Dr. Meryl Ai, a US-based career educator, it is normal for both the parent and child to be anxious about entering a new school, but she advises that the parent should not express it to their child.
“Express confidence and optimism about his/her ability to meet the new challenges. Look for opportunities for your child to meet their new classmates over the holiday. Check with the school principal, PTA, religious and social organisations and other groups to find connections,” she says.
Dr Meryl says if your child has special needs, such as a learning disability or food allergy, it is important to work with the new school in advance to determine placement and to line up services and support.
“Also, find out how the new school communicates important information to parents and then be alert to those messages. Is it by automated phone message, e-mail, newsletters or in your kids’ backpacks? Staying on top of information and issues will enable you to be a proactive and informed parent. Your ongoing engagement, support, and encouragement will expedite your child’s transition into the new school,” she says.
Valentin Inyamibwa, S.5 student at Ruhango College de Bethel
At certain times changing of the school comes with hardships as far as academic performance is concerned. When you are used to a particular teacher’s approach and all their teaching style you can be able to perform well in the subjects they handle. When you change schools with an unfamiliar teaching environment, you take long to cope up with the new teachers.
Sandra Mutoni, S.3 student at Groupe Scolaire de Kicukiro
Changing schools comes with making new friends. This implies that activities like group discussions may not come easy for the new-comers because they will have few acquaintances. To avoid such setbacks, students moving to new schools ought to be counselled so that this transition does not compromise their performance.
Anitha Mutesi, S.2 student at Fawe Girls
Changing schools can be positive as far as academics are concerned when handled well, especially if the new school is of a better standard. The most important consideration should be that change should be dictated by necessity for better not for the sake of just changing.
Patience Gihozo, S.5 student at Groupe Scolaire de Matare
Changing schools is good when parents have discussed it well with the students in line with their future goals. Parents need their children’s consent so that there is less resistance and easy adaptability.