The long school break is upon us. It is the longest school break since basic learning resumed after the closure necessitated by Covid-19 and it comes with a long list of reasons for parents to celebrate — and an equally long one for them to be uneasy.
Now, most learners, except those sitting the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations, are at home until at least January 23, 2023.
As parents all over Kenya are scratching their heads on the best way to handle the long break. We spoke with some parents and experts on what should be done. We also sampled some of the planned holiday events targeting children.
Some things parents are thinking about
“Too many apps on my phone”
Ms Particia Mumbua’s little daughter has only been home for the last seven days following the recess.
“But the number of apps downloaded on my phone is innumerable already,” she says.
“Then my daughter wants me to take her to stay inside the TV and play with cartoons [on the LCD],” says Ms Mumbua as she chuckles.
“I find it funny and weird. She is tech-savvy and curious,” she says of the experience, but nothing quite fascinates Ms Mumbua like getting to explore and know the world of fantasy her daughter lives in.
“She wants to experiment everything she’s been taught at school,” she says. “I bet it is going to be a roller-coaster ride.”
Her daughter has graduated from PP2 and is expected to join Grade One next year. It is just the beginning of the more than two months that the schools have closed.
In the short duration, she has learnt that she likes swimming. And now, she plans to enrol her in swimming classes. She reckons it will keep her busy given it is an exercise she seems to really enjoy.
She is of the opinion that parents should use the break to learn more about their children.
“Don’t be in a hurry to dump them upcountry,” she says.
“My heart bleeds for parents of adolescents”
Kevin Ouko, another young father, and a newbie to the parenting side of life is also grappling with how he’ll maximise the period her daughter will be home.
He marvels at the idea of not having to wake up early to assist in preparing their child for school. But he is also worried about how the next two months will pan out. It will be a learning curve, he thinks.
“I know I’ll enjoy the experience because I really love being with my daughter. But my heart goes out to parents with adolescents. This category needs closer attention,” says Mr Ouko.
While they should be wary and considerate, Ouko recommends that parents with adolescents should use the next weeks to “sit down with them, talk to them, guide and counsel them”.
“This is a good time to plan for 2023”
Cleophas Maiko, a father of two and a resident of Nakuru, is breathing a sigh of relief. One of his children is sitting KPSEA, the other is already home. To him, the two months is a time to rethink how to wade through the next year. But he is worried that times might get tougher after the break.
“With the grapevine rife that the education subsidy is withdrawn, fees will obviously hike,” he said. “Once she is done with the exams, I intend to have them travel upcountry.”
But for the coming months, he advised parents to save. “Save, dear parent. Just save.”
Programmes offered by various organisations
Learning a new language
Taking time to learn a new language could be one way for schoolchildren to spend time during the holidays. There are many centres to do this at a fee. But in Kiambu County, Mitahato French Village is offering lessons to locals for free. Founded by Chris Mburu – the UN resident coordinator in the Republic of Congo – children can go in any time between 8am and 4pm and be taught the language.
There is also a library where they can read material in French. Mr James Kimani, the manager of the centre, told Lifestyle that more than 40 children attend on a daily basis.
Apart from the regular programmes in churches, some organisations are planning to offer religious coaching to high school students during the school break. For example, the Parkroad Fellowship has organised a camp for students in Gilgil, Nakuru County, between next week and the poster says the events are “fun, food and lessons”.
“Holidays look too long. Here is a plug for students in high school,” posted Mungai Felix on Facebook as he announced the event.
The Kileleshwa Covenant Community Church also has a camp for children from next week, which will be heavy on bible stories and bible-related activities.
Playing is an important part of a child’s life. There are many free options at home and in public outdoor spaces as long as safety and security are taken into consideration. Besides, some outlets, including malls in Nairobi and other urban areas, are offering playing spaces—mostly run by businesses that specialise in children’s games. .
Being tech-savvy: robotics, coding, programming
There are posters offering lessons on robotics (with one indicating that learners are likely to come out with knowledge on how to make and control a robot) while a number of organisations are out to impart coding and programming skills on young ones.
Public speaking lessons
Life coach Samuel Murage thinks children need to master public speaking. Among organisations offering this is Dress to Impress that has online public speaking classes for children from seven years and above.
Public and private facilities offer swimming lessons, but safety and security — particularly the presence of lifeguards and skilled trainers — are important in whatever choice a parent makes. In addition to swimming, some facilities offer other lessons like cooking and playing musical instruments.