Identifying a leader at a young age is not only important to learners, but to the country as well. This is the reason why different schools give students an opportunity to choose their leaders who will represent their interests.
However, experts believe that without proper guidance and mentoring from teachers, parents and those in charge of such students, juggling the role of being a leader and studying can negatively impact their academics.
Importance of student leaders
Paul Oga, the dean of studies at Green Hills Academy, Kigali, says student leadership is important, but it can be both advantageous and detrimental.
He notes that empowering student leaders with necessary skills in both areas of career and general leadership in society is of more help than just being a leader at their school.
“Mobilising them for a worthy cause is also important. For example, student leaders at our school spearhead confectionery sales, make and sell cards and engage in health alert walks, among others,” he says.
Oga adds that such activities show how student leaders are vital at any school. However, he points out that this cannot be done if there is no strong support from teachers.
On guiding them, Peter Ndayisaba, a teacher at Mother Mary Complex School, Kibagabaga, says being a leader already means one is in a position of responsibility, therefore, it becomes easy to appreciate that they need to put in extra effort to balance the two.
“Career guidance department and other counsellors should take the lead role in guiding these students so that they do not go astray,” he says.
However, Ndayisaba says most times, these same student leaders are most times naturally clever, intelligent and hard working, which makes the work of helping them manage their time well easier.
He also says letting student leaders to resolve grievances among their fellow students is a good way to empower them.
“Student leaders should not only concern themselves with students’ welfare but also their performance. Some students could have issues which they are not comfortable sharing with their teachers, making fellow students a safer channel through which to address their challenges,” he says.
For Dr Alphonse Uworwabayeho, a lecturer at University of Rwanda’s College of Education, looking beyond just academics, teachers should help groom these students in an all-round manner, so that their leadership doesn’t end up only in the school environment.
He adds that encouraging them to be good examples, even in their community, is important.
“Teachers and parents should also make sure their students grow up in an exemplary manner. With both guidance and mentorship from both parties, such students can be able to even compete globally as far as leadership in concerned,” he says.
Time management key
According to Alphonse Habimana, the principal of Kigali Leading Technical Secondary School, time management is very important to students, especially to those who have different leadership roles.
He says failure to teach such students how to manage their time can have a negative bearing on their academics.
“Lacking time to study due to other roles at school can be demoralising. That’s why some students resort to cramming notes instead of reading to understand,” he says.
However, Habimana notes that if time is well-managed, student leaders can still do better in both and manage to be top of their class.
At their school, for instance, Habimana says they organise trainings where student leaders are equipped with skills to manage themselves and their roles with ease.
On the other hand, Aloise Nsabimana, the principal of Apapper Complex School, Kicukiro, feels that because these students have competing time, task and schedule recquirement, teachers should help them manage time well.
“For instance, at my school, we normally put student leaders in different groups depending on their levels. Here, each student is given a responsibility to handle different activities depending on their class timetable,” he says.
Nsabimana says most of the time they encourage them to use breaks and evening hours to organise other students on what is needed, so that the following morning when they come, each and every student knows what they are expected to do without being followed around. This, he says, saves their time and allows the student leaders to focus on academics.
Additionally, Nsabimana points out that as teachers, it’s good to encourage student leaders to be role models in every area.
“They should also teach them leadership skills and discipline. With these two skills, student leaders will always be in a position to manage their time as well as maintain good grades,” he says.