Every January and February of each year, I witness parents running around like headless chicken trying to get their children into secondary schools. This is the time when head teachers, staff and members of school management boards make a killing being bribed for places in the schools. It is common to find a parent parting with UGX 4 Million (USD 1,100) just to get a place for their son/daughter only to pay official school fees of slightly under that amount.
As a parent, I thought I would share some advice on how to go about this process. By the time your child has hit 12 years and is a candidate for PLE, I expect any serious parent to have studied them well enough by now to know who they are, what they like or dislike and what kind of gifts they have. It doesn’t matter whether your child has been in a boarding primary school, the onus is upon us parents to bond with these children.
When you know your child well or fairly enough, then comes the next stage of identifying which academic institution would holistically bring up your child not only academically well but also boost her/his God given skills. If a child is talented in swimming, you have no business insisting on them going to a secondary school that does not offer swimming facilities simply because they shall be spending most of their time at school i.e. 8 months of the year. How do you expect them to excel in their gift when they only utilise the short holiday to practise? This analogy applies to other sports disciplines as well as extra curricula activities like drama, farming, entrepreneurship among others.
I know most parents are tuned to largely two things;
A school that will make the child score distinctions so that they can be the best academically in the country (This is why some schools have chosen the shorter path of cheating for the students in order to achieve this goal)
A school that can be regarded as having the Who is Who !! They want to see their children hobnobbing with ministers’ children or partaking of a family legacy (my grand father, father and now me all went to school X)
If your inclination is in line with what I just stated above, it’s also ok. Feel free to pursue that line. However, I do believe that the best option would to carefully scan the options around before setting on a secondary school.
Set up a check list to be followed so that you do not bias yourself while undertaking the study. The checklist may include some or all of the following questions;
What talents does your child possess?
What kind of learning environment does the school provide?
How much contact time is the child likely to have with the teachers? (There are schools where a stream has 100 students, that definitely offers little or no contact time for most students)
What pillars is the school built upon? (Is it religious ie Moslem, Christian etc or Sports or Drama all the way to ethical considerations)
What do current students say about the school?
What is the school fees structure?
What level of extra curricular activities is provided?
How can the school shape your child into the person you want the to be in future? (Starts with knowing your child)
You can add onto this list ….
Using this checklist, take a tour of different schools (invest time in this process, do not rely on recommendations from buddies in pubs). Assess them by talking to the different parties concerned.
When you follow such a methodical approach especially with a good headstart, you’re less likely to gravitate like a headless chicken when the time comes. Infact, you shall discover that the mindset you had prior to this exercise has been debunked.
Start now to plan for your child’s next school. You will be glad that you did so.
James Wire is a Small Business and Technology Consultant
Email: lunghabo (at) gmail (dot) com