Reinventing Summer School

28 Aug 2013

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As the summer holiday continues with opportunities for children to do something different from the usual class activities, most parents are seeking ways to make it the best time of the year for their wards, Maduabuchi Ubani writes

School is out and this period, more than any other season, has the potential to give experiences that could become life-changing moments and long-lasting memories for children. Expectedly, most parents are cashing in.

Joyfully helping her mum to arrange her lunch box, she had a perfect mood for the occasion. 12-year-old Morayo Omogbenigun was excited about her enrollment at a summer camp somewhere in Victoria Island where she would gain skills in arts, music and drama.
In the past, she has heard endless tales from her classmates on what they did during summer breaks and that has made her grin with envy.

“Now I know I can also join in the conversations of happenings during the holiday.  I have always loved to sing and act in a drama but I have never had the opportunity. During the past years my mum had enrolled me in cooking classes but this year her friend advised her to bring me here and am happy she accepted because the whole experience will change everything about me, especially as I become bold to take on any activity,” She explained with a beam.

Though the culture of summer camp that offers rich experience outside the four wall of a classroom may still be low in Nigeria, interestingly parents are taking the advantage of the available few to engage their children. For the two long months until school begins again summer break offers a period where children are relieved of their educational and routine school curriculum activities. Clearly, summer holiday allows the kids to engage in activities that can broaden and illuminate their mental, emotional and physical well-being for them to start up a new class.

In some cases, summer break provide that opportunity for the children to travel to see countryside or outside the country in order to either meet with friends and family members or to relax and explore.

“We don’t live in Nigeria, but we often come around because our dad lives here,” said Sade Shonibare, who arrived in Nigeria recently from Dublin with her younger sister.
Summer holidays for Sade have always been a part of her growing up years. She had visited Nigeria many times in the past with memorable tales of her visit.

She said:  “Last year, we went to Terra culture in Victoria Island and it was just the normal activities we do every time but this year proved to be a bit different because our dad enquired from a friend who directed him to enroll us in a music, drama and dance school called Society for the Performing Arts in Nigeria (SPAN) and I must confess to you that pray for that friend of his every morning because the whole experience has ignited a positive spark in me.”

Like most organizations and societies that organise summer lessons for kids in Lagos, SPAN has nevertheless maintained its tradition of engaging the audience whether children, youth, families or the elderly to inspire them to grow in their artistic experience with a heightened sense of humanity and social responsibility.

So summer lessons for SPAN are like extending its hands of acceptance to kids in area they show genuine and effortless interest.
“The whole idea is to bring back the African culture, and one way that we can achieve that is by imbibing the cultural values in the children,” explained Benedicta Etieene who is the head of drama department at the society’s office.

According to Etieene, “the whole experience is to build capacity, achieve more and open the minds of participants to something different from what they are used to in every day school life; something apart from the usual school home works and assignments.”
She further enthused that apart from teaching and interacting with them, the summer camp which lasts for four weeks also gives them the platform to express themselves.

“I guess maybe that’s why the issue of summer camp and holidays were even instituted anyway because it gives an avenue for them to see new people and see things differently which is a different ball game from what they do in school which is why I often advice parents to occupy their wards with something worthwhile,”  she noted.

Yes, parents are still divided on the role of summer camps and how children should spend the holiday.
“My daughter has learnt and changed so much in this past few weeks that it just leaves me in great awe,” enthused  Mrs. Lovina Unegbu, a writer and cousellor  who sent her daughter to a summer camp class at Ikeja on a friend’s recommendation.

“Now she is so bold and quite creative. The summer class has stirred up her creative gifts such as drawing, which we never even noticed in her before now. So the idea of moving beyond sending her to just a swimming class has paid off. “Parents should learn to give their children the best things of life that they did not enjoy no matter how little it is because it’s just every parent’s dream for their children to be better than them and It’s just adorable how the smallest moment can have the biggest impacts in a child’s life and help them to be the most creative person in all ramifications.” Unegbu said

For Ms. Anita Sizzlers, an elementary school teacher in Port Harcourt, the idea of getting children completely off school work during summer should be avoided.  She said: “I don’t really buy the idea of exclusively leaving my kids to learning skills and leave out their core educational requirements. It is paramount to let the children be actively prepared for their new classes and not be overwhelmed with life skills activities at summer camps.”

She continued: “For my children, I do take them to where they would learn musical instruments, meet new kids and indulge in child-friendly games but that takes place in the afternoon because in the morning, their private teacher comes over to show them things they are expected to see in their new class and that for me is striking a good balance between life skills and their education which is even more important to me.”

According to experts, one of the challenges facing kids in Nigeria is that just a few of them are confident and courageous enough to express their feelings during their early stage and summer camps could help to reverse the trend.

A Creative Director in a summer school, Joshua Oluchukwu, emphasized that children learn more with their five senses  and concurred on the fact that it is what they get acquainted to early in life that helps shapes their future.

“This is the more reason why we are soliciting for these whole activities to be actively brought back to our educational system and academic curriculum, not just for them to exist in highbrow schools but also in average school for average income earners. Because for us, we go round schools to teach them all these things but it’s just not enough for them because it needs to be part of their daily school or weekly activity.

“In the academy I work for, We try to do exercise that will help their memory, timing, consciousness and concentration and I must confess that Its been wonderful to truly transform kids and watch them go home  positively transformed because the joy that this whole activity gives to kids is not something that melts away overtime, it stays there and continually helps their self esteem and communication,” he observed.

But unfortunately, most children whose family income can barely send them to school never attend summer classes, they either spend the whole break helping out with house chores, going to the market with their parents or even hawking on the streets and highways to raise fund for the next school year.

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