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Long vacation… kids not too young for creative exploits

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Pupils and teacher of Rightfield International School, Ipaja-Ayobo learning tablemat making and designing for home-decor, during their holiday vocational class yesterday. PHOTO: IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA

With the closure of schools for the long vacation, parents are expected to heave a sigh of relief in the aspects of waking up early morning to prepare children for school, picking them up after closure, assisting them in doing their home-works and others. But even at that, parents are still faced with the challenges of taking care and guiding the children during the long vacation to ensure that they do not derail, considering that an idle mind is the devil’s work. What is more, they also need adequate protection from child predators and the issue of security challenges bedeviling the nation.

It is in the light of this that some parents are struggling to ensure that their children are kept busy, by engaging them in other meaningful endeavours that are not academic. Others have enrolled their wards in summer classes to avoid them staying idle at home. Parents who can afford the means have taken their children abroad on summer vacation. It is just a question of different strokes for different folks. It all depends on what the parents are capable of doing or can afford to keep their children busy during this long vacation.

Findings reveal that while some of the children are engaged in learning artworks and sporting activities, others are busy attending summer classes, travelling for holiday and more.

We Have Decided To Embrace Current Realities, Says Oyekanmi
By Tobi Awodipe
Like all schools in the country presently, the Keen British School is on long vacations in preparation for the new academic session and is engaging in the popular ‘summer coaching.’ Just like other schools, they had in the past, focused on strictly academic subjects during its summer school programme. But all that is in the past now.

Speaking with The Guardian, one of the school’s directors, Bose Oyekanmi said they have decided to go along with current realities.

“Times have changed now and it is not necessarily the engineers or doctors who are the most paid in our world today. Besides not every child would be a doctor, lawyer or engineer nor do they have interest in these fields. Coding and programming have now become skills in high demand. The workplace is evolving from sitting at a desk in an office, to working from the comfort of your home. So, we asked ourselves how best could we prepare the children for the competitive and ever-dynamic life-after-school that they would eventually face, some sooner than others?

“This question gave birth to the idea for the activities we are currently offering at our summer school. This holiday, children enrolled for the summer classes are taught the following instead of the conventional mathematics and English: photography and videography; PowerPoint, CorelDraw and Microsoft office suite; coding and computer programming, diction and speech therapy; leadership and entrepreneurship skills, as well as chess and scrabble games. They are also promoting values such as integrity, respect, calmness and punctuality. Students who consistently exhibit any of such values for a week are rewarded the following week with a special gift.”

The Guardian interaction with some of the students at the school revealed how the students preferred learning new things outside of their normal school work. “We are asked what we are interested in and register for the classes. Apart from the fact that the classes are interesting, we are learning new things that we don’t normally learn during school hours. I registered in etiquette and speech therapy class; it is very interesting and makes me laugh. I wish it was part of what we normally learn at school and when I grow up, I want to be a speech therapist,” Omolade John said.

A couple of parents that were around when The Guardian visited praised the idea, adding that the summer school activities were worth every kobo. Mrs. John, Omolade’s mother said not only were the children kept gainfully occupied, they were learning new things apart from the conventional education. “My child doesn’t really have interest in mathematics and when she is not labouring over her books, she is watching television, which I don’t really like. However, ever since she started this summer classes, she has become more animated, sharper, courteous and is always practicing with everybody. Whenever any visitor comes around, she wants to practice her skills on them.

“Next year, I will enroll her in any other thing she expresses interest in. This class has brought out her talents and even though this might change in the future, it has made her more confident than ever.” Praising the idea of the school as a laudable one, she said gone are the days when children are forced into certain careers at the behest of their parents, whether or not the child had interest in them. “The world is advancing and there are certain fields/careers that did not exist ten years ago that exist now and people are making a comfortable living in these fields. If my child steps out of the box and becomes a pioneer in a new field by virtue of this summer programme, that is my pride and joy as a parent,” she said.

Oyekanmi hopes the children stay beyond the summer programme to enjoy their rich and robust educational programmes the school has to offer.

‘Engaging Children Positively Makes The Long Vacation Worthwhile’
By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia, Maria Diamond and Henry Ekemezie
Ms Ronke Adeniyi is the head of Le Poshe School, Ikoyi. According to her, engaging children during the long vacation will depend on the actual goal the parent or guardian has for them and also the interests of the child.

“What is also important is planning. The saying goes that if we fail to plan, we plan to fail. There are numerous activities, however, if your child is not interested in a particular activity you engage him or her in; it will certainly pose a challenge.

“We are to engage them in fun activities that can also aid their learning; a combination of cognitive and physical activities and do away with the excessive use of gadgets particularly when learning. Plan for every hour of the day, know where they are and with whom in order to prevent them from falling prey to predators. An idle mind is said to be the devil’s workshop.

“Keep them busy, fill the time with engaging activities including rest, allow room for communication feedback and plan.”

Adeniyi said her school has numerous activities for children with different interests and of different ages.

“All the children engage in physical activities in the morning, it could be aerobics, dance, gymnastics, ball games etc. We have sports teacher that takes care of this aspect. These stimulate them physically and mentally and prepare them for the day.

“We have languages such as Mandarin, French and African languages such as Igbo and Yoruba; and we compliment them with dance, there are several Arts and Craft activities, etiquette, basic first aid training, knitting, sewing, braiding, ICT, cooking, juicing, Montessori practical life activities such as beading and life skills.”

Adeniyi added that there are days they discuss their goals, interests, sexuality and mindsets, using her recent book, the Right Kid 101.

“We have two massive playgrounds for outdoor activities and games. The selection is very wide so every child finds something they will enjoy and learn from. These activities enhance their communication and language skills, boost their confidence, keep them physically fit and makes them more independent.”

Child Psychologist and mental health expert, Ruqoyah Ogunbiyi, said that holiday is a great time for parent-children bonding and cognitive development of children’s personality.

“The family is the most predictor of a child’s mental health and with support from family, a child can attain all. Studies have shown that people with severe mental disorder are more likely to get better with family support compared to those with all the therapy and medication in a hostile environment. It also shows the environment plays an important role too.”

She stressed that parent-child bonding reassures a child of his safety, which is common among toddlers as they consistently look around to see if their mum is still there. This guarantees their safety. It is also important for later life recognition; when a child starts to go to school and mix with classmates, if you have not created that bond from childhood, it may never happen again.

“It also creates a positive sense of self; our perceptions of who we are all begin from our major interaction with our family. Most people lost their self-esteem if only they had built it at home.”

Ogunbiyi noted that bonding with children is about the quality and not the quantity of time. You can bond by reading a book, praying, taking a walk, seeing a movie. But as much as this is important, I don’t advocate for a child to spend the whole day with parents even if the mum is a housewife. It puts pressure on parenting.

“On cognitive development, the way a parent engages his/her child plays a key role. There are appropriate activities a child can be involved in: one year old can play with toys, three to five years can do physical activities like hide-and-seek or dance competitions. For older children, you can enroll them in language and creative classes, drama and coding classes.

“However, if you have children that are beginning to show interest in some skills, what you can do is to help them improve such skills. You can work around the strength of the child from observations of their academic performances. So, a child that talks well will do well in Spelling Bee competitions, a child good in mathematics will do well in coding.

“This should also improve social interactions; as children interact with other children, they begin to form friendships that are important and so parents should acknowledge and foster family friendships.”

She added that one of the issues in her generation was that they couldn’t take friends home. “Parents can actually foster family friendships most importantly to tell the background of their children’s friends and it’s effect on your child’s life. This can only be possible if you are involved in your child’s life else parents will live in fear which was our case in our time as they couldn’t tell what kind of personality our friends may have.”

Proprietress of Rightfield International School Ipaja Ayobo Lagos, Mrs. Damilola Adebayo said, they are trying to prepare the children for the next session with the regular academic teachings, but more importantly they are also teaching the students vocational trainings like baking, simple bead makings and artworks.

“For the basic students, we teach them practical vocations, but for the Nursery, we teach them artworks and how to make simple breakfast like sandwich on their own.

“We are also using this period to teach them practical table manners and healthy eating habits too.
“We can’t teach these kids a lot of these things during the regular school session without having an overkill,” she said.

A visit to Icclaim Comprehensive College Ipaja Ayobo was contrary to the expectations of summer vacation as only a few students turned up for what seem like a regular school class with no extra curricular activities or vocational trainings.

According to one of the teachers, Mrs. Funmi Aworeni, there was no arrangement for fun activities or vocational trainings, because the parents didn’t pay for such.

“A lot of parents find it extremely difficult to pay regular school fee, not to talk of paying additional money in the name of vocational classes. So our hands are tied because vocational training requires money to get everything needed for the training. All we can do is to get them ready for the next academic year like regular classes,” she said.

Olaitan Soetan during his karate training session. PHOTO: HENRY EKEMEZIE

A parent (name withheld) in Ayobo said the long vacation is a time she always looks forward to, because it is a period of the year to make more money as her four children hawk her wares twice everyday.

“I seize the opportunity of the long break to get into different businesses and my children hawk them in the morning and evening. They take off after breakfast around 9am and return by 2pm after sales to take off again by 4pm and return at night.

“It’s for their own good because, I pay each of their school fees and other items they need for resumption. I cannot have them do anything else outside helping me with the sales.

“Most times they complain, but they have no choice whatsoever, not if they want to eat and return to school the next session,” she said.

Mrs. Omoladun Adetoni said: “She don’t understand the essence of the long vacation because her home has become a warfront as her children beat themselves up at the slightest provocation and turn the entire house into boxing arena.

“I thought the solution was taking the three boys to a bigger school for the holiday coaching, just to get them busy but, as soon as they return by 12noon, the rest of the day is chaos. I feel frustrated, having them home this long, it makes it impossible for me to concentrate on my business. I have to be home to ensure they do not get themselves injured.

“My husband will always insist that they return to my shop after class, but that would mean nonstop caution and lamentation for me, I can’t have that. So what I do is to threaten to starve anyone who tries to be difficult, but most times, they can’t help themselves, they keep calling to complain and I feel helpless,” she said.

A lawyer and mother of two, Mrs. Chinwe Ebelechi said she sent her kids abroad for holiday and it turns out that they are having a great time in London with her elder sister’s kids.

“As a matter of honesty, I can’t have those kids at home alone after the supposed school vocational training because, I don’t have house help at home to watch after them.

“Usually, when school is in session, they spend the whole day at school and close at 5pm, which is about the same time their dad leaves the office, so they all return home at the same time and their father takes care of them till bed time. I am usually free on weekends to take care of them. But this long vacation would affect my job and my husband’s if I didn’t arrange to get them out of my way,” she said.

Mrs. Adenike Adegoke, a housewife said she likes the long vacation because she takes her kids to fun places and sometimes her husband arrange a trip abroad for them.

“This year, there is low cash flow so we didn’t travel but myself and the kids have been touring the city, places we ordinarily would not have the time to go even on weekends because of the excessive motherhood and home 0keeping workload.

“I am blessed with kids that are well behaved so I never stress so much on them or getting them to be civil, but you know sometimes kids just behave as kids and that can be challenging,” she said.

Mrs. Kafilat Isa, a mother of four said she enrolled all her three daughters to learn vocations of their choice, while the son who is still young attends a nearby holiday coaching.

“I enrolled my first daughter who is 14year old in a sewing shop, while the second is learning catering at a catering shop nearby, and the third at a hairdressing salon. Before they vacate school, I asked them what they would like to do to get busy and they all made their choice and I enrolled them.

“Although it’s a bit expensive paying for each of them, despite the short term duration but, I feel good about knowing that my kids aren’t wandering around while I am at work,” she said.

Meanwhile, to help children have a sense of fulfilment, parents can offer them many opportunities to be involved everyday in one activity or the other during the summer holiday by coming up with great ideas that would keep them occupied.

Many children pick interest in music while growing up. Some eventually grow up to do it professionally, while others remain music hobbyists. Aside the summer lessons, one of the simplest ways to keep kids busy is to take them to sporting centers, most of which have fun activities that would enable them earn valuable prizes if they tend to get more involved. Be it swimming, taekwondo, table tennis, basketball, badminton, soccer etc. these are great activities for kids to stay busy during the holidays as they get to exercise, have fun and stay cool.

Speaking to The Guardian at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, Phoebe Eledonome has taken measures to follow up with her passion for basketball.

According to her, aside learning pronunciations and educative songs; there are games I tend to get more involved in such as swimming, table tennis and even rugby. I love rugby but my passion has always been for basketball since I was 4-years old. She said.

She further added that she derived the passion for sports when she got listed amongst students who represented the school in a swimming competition.

“When I grow up I have many ambitions in mind but becoming a basket baller is certainly one of them because it’s my passion. Actually, I started loving sporting activities when I took part in a competition in my school. My first experience wasn’t that good, so I tried to improve.

“However, we don’t have a sporting environment that’s as big as the basketball court but for sporting and creative activities I can rate my school 100 percent good in that area. We also have an art and drama club where we learn how to draw, sing and act. From 1-100 I can rate myself to be 60 percent good in basketball and I am quite good playing the defensive position. She said.

According to Seotan Olaitan, a Karate student, I decided to join a karate class so I would be able to defend myself because lately I have been a victim of domineering bullies in my school, especially kids who are actually the same age as me but mostly bigger in size.

“There is a boy in my school who has been making life unbearable for me so I decided to use this holiday period to train myself. Although, I recently started my karate training few days ago and I’m starting to improve in my skills. Before the holiday is over I should have gotten better and be able to defend myself if I ever come in contact with any more bullies.

“However, I still engage in other sports activities like football and cycling but this karate lesson is what I want to focus on for now.” He said.

Toyosi Ayomikun, who took more interest in skating, said, “summer holiday is great and I have been enjoying every moment of it. Recently, I have been able to learn a lot of things that I wasn’t good at before; just like skating and cycling, I can do tricks and still maintain my balance because balance is every aspect of it and I need to work hard to be perfect some of my skills.”

“I choose skating because I have seen it on television, that was when I started developing interest and I’m grateful to my parents for supporting me in everyway possible.”


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