ED­U­CA­TION

Par­ents should weigh var­i­ous avail­able op­tions be­fore sep­a­rat­ing with their kids

Business Daily (Kenya) - - HEALTH - DR FRANK NJENGA

Pros and cons of tak­ing your chil­dren to board­ing school

Q. What is the right age to take a child to board­ing school with­out af­fect­ing the psy­cho­log­i­cal well-be­ing? I have been trans­ferred to new work sta­tions sev­eral times and I plan to set­tle my daugh­ter in a board­ing school so that I don’t in­ter­rupt her learn­ing each time I move to a new work sta­tion.”

You have asked a ques­tion for which I do not have a sat­is­fac­tory answer. The truth is that “it de­pends”. That said, one must con­sider very many fac­tors in de­cid­ing if in­deed board­ing school is an op­tion for one, or all their chil­dren. In your case, it seems that the fre­quent trans­fers from the sta­tion to the sta­tion might force you to take your chil­dren to board­ing school be­fore you or the chil­dren are ready to sep­a­rate.

There are how­ever many other is­sues that are raised by our ques­tion.

A re­cent dec­la­ra­tion by a se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial stated that board­ing schools would be phased out in Kenya.

A lead­ing fig­ure in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor — Prof Ge­orge Magoha — held the view that this was not a wise move. Many par­ents who have chil­dren in na­tional schools agreed with him.

It is ar­gued that many chil­dren from some of the more re­mote parts of the coun­try would not have gone to school if they could not get ac­cess to board­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

An­other ar­gu­ment for board­ing schools is that boys and girls from dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try live and study to­gether and this way learn to be bet­ter cit­i­zens!

Your ques­tion, how­ever, pulls us back to con­sider “the right age” to send chil­dren to board­ing school.

The ex­treme po­si­tion raised in your ques­tion has to be “why should any child be sent to board­ing school”.

About 20 years ago, when TV sta­tions be­gan to mush­room in Kenya, we saw a num­ber of chil­dren who had been sent to board­ing school by their par­ents as a form of pun­ish­ment.

Many par­ents com­plained that the chil­dren were get­ting spoilt by the TV and that the only way to sort them out is to send them off to a place where there were rules about TV and other lux­u­ries.

In one case that comes to mind, a 16-year-old boy from a wealthy fam­ily was sent to a ru­ral school where there was no TV re­cep­tion. That, in the mind of his fa­ther, was the solution. The boy had other is­sues. Two days af­ter he ar­rived at the school, he poured a bucket of water in his own bed. Asked what hap­pened, he said he was a bed wet­ter and could not stay in the school. That trick did not work and he was made to sleep in a wet bed.

The fol­low­ing day, there was no cook­ing gas at the school. One of the cooks re­ported hav­ing seen the boy near the gas cooker ear­lier in the day. The boy was rep­ri­manded and told he would be ex­pelled if he did any­thing else that could up­set the school sys­tem!

Two days later, he was in­deed ex­pelled. A fire had started in one of the class­rooms and it was clear that he had caused it. At home later that day, his par­ents found him watch­ing TV! In des­per­a­tion, they sent him to the doc­tor to see what was wrong with him. It was later con­firmed that he had dys­lexia.

With this con­di­tion, the boy had se­ri­ous prob­lems with the writ­ten word. Much as he tried to read or write, he found it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult.

The more his par­ents and teach­ers pushed him the more des­per­ate he be­came. Be­cause he was from a wealthy fam­ily his par­ents had man­aged to “push” him through var­i­ous schools and up to the age of 16, the sys­tem had not bro­ken down. Pun­ish­ing him by send­ing him to a board­ing school broke the camel’s back and led to the cur­rent di­ag­no­sis. He was also se­verely de­pressed.

A man came to see us re­cently with a ques­tion sim­i­lar to yours. He is the fa­ther of a set of twins aged nine. Their mother left him two years ear­lier and now lives with a boyfriend in Europe. He has found a good job that re­quires him to travel in the re­gion fre­quently.

He wanted to know if board­ing school would be good for his boys. In his case, a sim­ple solution was in hand. He found the twins a weekly board­ing school. He was able to plan his life such that he had the boys at home on week­ends, while he trav­elled on duty the whole week.

As you can see, the con­cept of board­ing school ranges from those at­tend­ing as a way of pun­ish­ment to those that al­low for weekly board­ing that en­ables par­ents to pur­sue ca­reers.

Ev­ery fam­ily must plan and de­cide what is best for the chil­dren at which time.

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