Excelling in examinations, a collective responsibility

would like to react to Kennedy Ndahiro’s opinion he wrote recently in The New Times titled "The lost generation of our education systems."

would like to react to Kennedy Ndahiro’s opinion he wrote recently in The New Times titled "The lost generation of our education systems."

It is very fine he has raised something that was burning on people’s minds, mine inclusive.

Yes, Mr Ndahiro, the national examinations for both primary and secondary schools results are shocking (except, of course, for those children who were among the best in the country).

To be honest, if the passing mark was really reduced from 43.3% to 38% and yet only 27% managed to get it, then something wrong is going on.

Mr Ndahiro, I agree we are probably raising a generation of retarded children and that the education system may be on holiday. In the education system, the finger is being pointed directly at the lady at the helm, Hon. Jeanne D’Arc Mujawamariya.

But really, should we pile all the blame on her? We need to identify some of the school heads that are recklessly handlig students and pupils with children gloves in such a way that it appears they even want to do the examinations for them.

Now, Mr Ndahiro, I am of the opinion that you did not realise you were a bit biased in your observations. If we are raising a generation of retarded children, for example, who is responsible?

Should we blame the Education Ministry or someone else? Perhaps the blame should be on the parents or the students themselves? Remember you mentioned that some schools have become hotbeds for hate and genocide ideologies. Where do they learn these ideologies, only in schools? Why not at home?

I am of the opinion that some parents are just ruining their own children. I believe you know very well the way the genocide ideology is disseminated. It is not only in schools, but also in people’s homes.

Getting back to the performance in schools, many parents tell stories of how hard it was to for them to stay in school. They will tell you how they walked kilometres to reach school. They will also tell you how they worked in rich people’s shambas (gardens) for their school fees.

Ask people of the same era, like Tito Rutaremara, Prof. Chrysologue Karagwa, Mt. Tharcises Karugarama, Donald Kaberuka, Prof. Romain Murenzi.....Oh! The list is endless.

These are a few people who can tell you how hard it was for them to attain education. I will not compare their time with that of today, because the situation today is much sweeter to taste if not downright romantic.

If Mr Ndahiro has children, I expect him to raise an issue we see with the children today. I am not trying to say Ndahiro’s children are not disciplined, but I am instead illustrating the general behaviour of children and how much their parents know about it.

Our parents used to study in harsh conditions with poor feeding, poor teachers and walked long distances to school and some also toiled for school fees. I need not even mention how much they respected their parents and teachers.

But students today are of another calibre; some are too big headed, undisciplined, you name it. Parents are responsible to some extent. Most parents are money minded. They come home at night and spend a whole week without tracking the progress of their children at school.

Don’t even talk about the home theatre T.V. sets and music systems parents have installed for their children at home. Instead of doing their homework, while their parents assist them, students are simply watching MTV, Super Sport, Channel O, Mnet and all those sorts of entertaining channels. These are not bad, but should have their designated time.

What does one expect of these children? And would such a parent expect good performance from their son or daughter at the end of the term? Can such a parent wake up in the morning and blame Ministry of Education for a poor system? Ha!

However, for the case of the children whose parents cannot afford all sorts of sophisticated gadgets at home, their children can be categorised.

When I was in secondary school, in boarding section, there was a child who had come from the village. Though i was a villager too, I had ever lived in town for some time and I was used to it. I could even walk in all corners of the city without guidance.

This child is going to serve as an example of children from villages who fail exams because they get excited to be in a town school and become spoiled.

Though he never had as many clothes, shoes, books, pens, soap and all the stuff as I had, he always looked satisfied and was the first person to sit in the class every day. He was also the first person to go in for night reading (Preps).

After a few days, he realised he was living in a different society, with children of ministers and all those VIPs he used to hear on the radio. He was nervous and determined to show them that he was a brilliant kid and could be like or better them, even though he was from a poor family. He was the best in class with a 98% average in the first term.

The term ended, we went on holidays and then we came back for the second one, there he was too. He did not pay the school fees until the second week, even though he had it in his pockets.

He started changing and strived to be on the same level with the children from rich families. He started to think "I know more" in the ‘wanna be style.’ He wanted to go to the school canteen and eat well like the rich children. Little did we know that what he was spending was the school fees.

n the middle of the term, when he was asked to go home and bring school fees, he walked into a ghetto near the school, where fellow students stayed. He could not walk home and tell his poor parents that he had spent the money on mandazi, chapatti and milk while others were eating Ugali and beans.

He missed classes for two weeks and kept dodging teachers and patrons, who would inspect the nearby hostels and ghettos where students stayed. He used to sneak in at night to eat the ugali he had avoided. This time the money was finished and he was starving.

After three weeks, he came back and lied to the bursar (finance director), saying that parents were broke and had promised to bring the money in a few days. He was allowed back in class and repeated the same thing in the third term. Again, he played cat and rat games with the bursar until we finished the term.

Because he had missed a lot of class, a student who was the 1st in at the beginning with a 98% average, became the 25th out of 40 students.

He had become dangerous around the school, stealing shoes, jeans and all sorts of stuff that he would sell to outsiders. Teachers never understood what went wrong with him. But he was not the only one, there were many. And it was not only in our school, but even in the neighbouring schools around the town.

When these delinquent students were sent home to bring in their parents for disciplinary matters, they went and hired strangers in town to come and intimidate teachers. These mock parents told the teachers that "their children" were not that bad and should be allowed back into class.

How do you expect such students to excel or even attain the passing mark? Who do you blame, teachers or the schools? Mr. Ndahiro, where is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education? Can we even really say we have a Ministry of education when only 26.74% of students are passing?

However, I cannot conclude without mentioning that although there are many students like the boy mentioned in this article, it is well know that students from rural areas behave well and usually perform better than children in urban areas.


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