Most of us in this country would have noticed that within this month of August, a lot of school-aged children were seen going up and down the streets, with their school bags hanging on their backs. In fact, if you happen to be at home within the week, you will enjoy the quietness that comes between 9am to 12pm when most of the children within the vicinity have gone for their ‘summer’ lessons.
When I first heard about summer schools and classes in Nigeria, I was confused because we don’t have any season called ‘summer’ here. But someone told me that why that name was given to it was because we hold summer classes in Nigeria within the same time some countries experience their summer; and that most of our people travel out of the country to enjoy that season with them. It doesn’t make sense to me either. But since they already call it Summer School, Summer Classes, Summer Lessons, Summer Camps and so on, we have to do that too.
I’ve seen a lot of people that kick against this holiday programme for children. The major argument presented by this group is that these children need to rest their brains during the holiday. Some also said that parents need that period to bond well with their children. These points are all correct, but then, there are still some reasons why ‘Summer Schools’ are still important in our society.
I will try to group these points according to its importance to the schools, the parents and the children.
A. For the Schools
1. Customer Attraction and Retention: This is the major reason most schools engage in this programme. If you have noticed, new schools start off with summer classes, and some of them make it free of charge.
Now if you are wondering how these schools attract customers through summer programmes, I will tell you. The first thing they do is that they either charge very low fees for the classes, or they make it free of charge. The essence of this is that the parents of the children within that vicinity will be attracted by the cheapness of the programme. When they finally bring these people together, the teachers will then do the rest by making students from other schools feel that the teachers in their schools weren’t teaching them enough.
How do they do this? They bring up those topics that are usually avoided by teachers in Nigerian schools (though they are in the curriculum) and then teach them deeply. A good example of such topics are phonetics and phonology in the English language (most of our English teachers avoid them like the plague).
As for how they retain their customers, since they are running that programme, their students living nearby will have no reason to go to another school (and face the same tactics used by this school).
So, when these children go home, they will complain to their parents about how Teacher A and Teacher B in their current schools are not good and so they want to go to School B, where the teachers are very good. Now, I’ve leaked our secrets.
One more thing, schools that have beautiful surroundings and good facilities use the summer programme to exhibit them and bring in new customers.
2. Extra Income for Schools: Schools that collect fees for summer lessons obtain extra income for carrying out some projects. For example, some schools use the income from summer lessons to pay August salaries, repaint the school buildings or buy textbooks that will be resold to the students at resumption.
3. Extra Income for the Teachers: Teachers that partake in summer classes are always paid for it. This is a way of obtaining the extra fund they need. Some of them may even engage some of the students in private tutorials and generate more income from there.
B. For the Parents
a. Keeping the Children Safe: Some working parents are not comfortable with leaving their children alone at home or with some relatives and friends they couldn’t vouch for. Summer schools therefore provide the best alternative for them.
b. Keeping the Children Busy: Everybody knows that children are always busy. They must definitely find something to do. If they are not well monitored, they can either destroy something or hurt themselves. So to decide that they should sit back home and rest their brains may not really be wise (unless there is an adult left with them). Anyway, summer class is one way to keep these children busy within the long vacation.
C. For the Children
a. Networking: If you think these children don’t want to network, then I’ll suggest that you have a rethink. To be honest, the major reason these young ones want to go to summer classes is to meet with old friends, make new ones and play their hearts out. You need to spend some time with them in their classes to understand what I’m saying here.
b. Preparing for the Next Class: This doesn’t mean that every child that went for a summer class is going to learn everything he/she will meet in the next class as the term resumes. But, one good thing about the summer classes is that they give these students insights into what they will meet within their first month in their new classes. This has a way of making the students have more confidence as they go back to school.
I, however, have some suggestions to make towards how these schools should be run. The first thing I will like to point out is that the number of hours spent on academic activities should be reduced. In fact, if it is possible, let some days be free of any academic works. As a matter of fact, these children need time to play and socialise under the watchful eyes of the teachers. Everything shouldn’t be about academics.
Secondly, summer schools in Nigeria should find a way to inculcate extracurricular activities into their programmes. I know that this means that extra charges have to be made, but let them work something out first. Why I’m suggesting this is that this may be the only time these children will have to try out some of their talents.
Next is that, if it will be convenient, some schools can organise morning and evening classes. Maybe different programmes will be held during the morning classes and another set during the evening classes. This will allow those who couldn’t make the morning classes to come for the evening ones.
Finally, our public schools should be encouraged to start up summer schools. I noticed that their school compounds are used during this ‘summer’ period by some private individuals who organise their own programmes and tutorials. Let them follow the trend to make their students feel as special as those from private schools. The holiday is too long for these students to sit down at home while their parents are out there pursuing their careers.
Most summer classes have ended right now, while the rest will end next week. It will be advisable for those schools that missed this year’s own to start now to plan for the one of next year. They have a lot to benefit from it.