There is a proverb that seems to appear in all almost all African languages.
This is the one that refers to straightening of a tree at its infant stage. Trying to do the same at a later stage will result in breaking it. The English equivalent is, “Charity begins at home.”
In this era, school is the second home for most children since a lot of their time is spent here (more than in their actual homes by the way).
Therefore the school finds itself duty bound to impart several skills, knowledge and attitudes into the students before they go into the world out there.
Today I will talk about the aspect of smartness. I am talking about smartness in terms of appearance rather than academic prowess. Schools ought to focus on this aspect more seriously if they wish to produce all round useful citizens.
Many first time visitors to Rwanda or Kigali in particular will quickly notice that there is a certain degree of urban orderliness and cleanness that is not typical of an African city.
The city has even gone ahead to win global awards in the same discipline.
Surprisingly the same visitors and even the residents have occasionally noted that most of the school-going children do not exhibit the kind of smartness expected of them.
It is not rare to find students walking with loose hanging shirts and even trousers similar those of uneducated American rap artists.
Some boys keep unkempt hair and wear dirty shirts. Others do not even bother to wear proper school uniforms in the first place.
Many a time readers of this paper have expressed their disgust at the way some of our children dress while in school.
The khaki uniforms are sometimes bearing the colour thanks to dirt that design. Unpolished shoes and sandals are also common place.
Though it is no longer easy to find bare-footed children walking to school, the introduction of cheap coloured plastic sandals (commonly referred to as Tuvugane or boda boda) has not helped much.
These shoes have been turned into some sort of uniform for several school going children, consequently blurring the line between casual labourers in Nyabugogo and future leaders (the students).
Others simply wear sports shoes from Monday to Friday without any sports activity to indulge in.
Now that the rains are here, all sorts of warm clothing are used by the students making it much harder to tell who is a student and who a motorcycle rider is!
Schools however have the power to improve this whole situation. For a start, it is wise for schools to invest in nice school sweaters that students can wear when it is cold and still look smart.
Greenhill Academy for instance has got both sweaters and jackets for its students and therefore ensures smartness of all its students in all tropical weather conditions.
There should be regulations of how much hair a school going child should have and this hair should be combed too.
Students should also always wear clean uniforms and tuck then shirt in at all times. If they cannot tuck in now while in school then do not expect to have smart fellows in future working in the different offices around the country.
Even the footwear ought to be uniform and decent. There is no reason for a student to appear for class like he was headed to a basketball court.
Decent polished shoes should be worn for school while sneakers are preserved for sports time. Actually when it is time for sports then even the clothes should suit the purpose.
It is also vital for schools to insist on students carrying handkerchiefs at all times and even smear some Vaseline on their skins. Obviously they need to be reminded to take a shower more regularly.