Extra Classes: A Boon or a Burden?
In recent times, I have observed with keen interest the time at which some pupils in my neighbourhood return from school. These pupils usually leave home as early as 6:00am and return home at 18:00GMT. As they hastily leave for school, they will tell you the kind of punishment that awaits a person for not attending extra classes. This situation leaves them with virtually no time for house chores and even much time to review their school notes.
Perhaps, you might have also observed a similar situation in your neighbourhood. Pupils of upper and even lower primary schools are made to attend extra classes. Some of those who close before 17:00pm sometimes have special teachers at home. I feel in some circumstances, some of these arrangements deprive children of a sufficient leisure time- a component crucial for a child’s development.
Extra classes were evident in many basic schools I visited; especially those being managed by private individuals. From my interaction with some pupils, I understand school formally closes at 15:30GMT after which extra classes follow and ends at 17:00GMT. “Super-Extra-Classes”, as some of the pupils described it continues from 17:00GM to 18:00GMT. That notwithstanding, some of them attend classes on Saturdays and even during vacation.
Reasons given for this kind of arrangement in some schools seem really interesting. Some teachers argue that time and duration for teaching is not sufficient to fully cover the syllabus within a term. According to some teachers, extra classes offer the platform for students to be better prepared for terminal and external examinations like the Basic Education Certificate Examination. Fees from extra classes, they explain, supplement their seemingly insufficient salary. From what I gathered, some teachers would deliberately reserve certain crucial topics only to be taught during extra classes. This is used as a measure to compel students to attend the extra classes. The unfortunate part is that, those who can’t afford to attend therefore miss out on those topics and are even punished for that.
Extra classes, I believe are necessary. Children deserve to have the best start in life. As such, giving them special attention in their education is crucial. My worry, however, is the growing trend of commercializing and exploiting the education system. In doing this, children from modest background, whose parents cannot afford an additional school fees are deprived of full benefits from school work. This I must say runs contrary to what legal frame works on children’s welfare really states. Articles 28 and 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, for instance, stipulates that children have the right to quality but affordable education and the need for them to benefit from school work.
Governments' Departments of Education and the Association of Private schools must step up their supervisory role to ensure that schools under their Jurisdiction do not take undue advantage of children under the pretext that such students deserve special attention. I have known teachers who identified poorly performing students in class and were willing to help them without even charging them any fee. Even if fees would be charged for extra classes, it should be within the reach of low income parents. I want to see children graduate with distinctions but certainly not at the expense of learning basic life skills.