Form one admission is here with Kenyan parents. After the December festivities that drained your pockets and struggling to raise the exploitative fees demanded by schools, your child is set to start the next phase of their education.
Is the kid now good to go? Is she ready to stop suckling and face the world on their own, bound by school rules? Not yet! One more thing for you to do- the customary sit down and loads of advice on how to survive the baptism by fire and debauchery over the next three months before they can come back home to breastfeeding again.
Make friends with good peers only. Do not do drugs. Focus on your studies, you will have fun after four years. Report bullies to the administration so that they are dealt with. If you have any problems, tell the class teacher to contact us as soon as possible. Bla bla bla.
Honestly, dear parents, some of these pieces of pieces of advice are outdated and out of touch with reality. Times have changed. Things are not the same as the time you went to school.
Here are five things you should really be giving your child a sit-down about;
1.They will be coming face to face with the reality of inequality in this country
Sunday school taught them to share with the less fortunate. Besides, you had really insisted on them sharing their textbooks and break-time snacks with those that had none. Or they were on the receiving end and you had taught to be content with what they had and not ‘beg’ around. Good. congratulations, you are a good parent. But that is nothing compared to what is about to come!
When they were in primary, the social and economic gaps was not much evident because you took them to a school you felt they would ‘belong’. With the controversial Form One selection and the quota system, they will come across people from all walks of life.
For instance, kids who are putting on shoes for the first time, and those who will encounter githeri boilo for the first time will meet at the same school.
Teach your kid how to interact with both groups. With the less privileged without coming across as boastful. And with the privileged without feeling the pressure to belong. Otherwise, they will end up frustrated. They may turn to stealing. To be on the same level as those ‘who have’. Or because the others are undeserving of good things.
2. On relationships with the opposite sex
Okay. This is a difficult, and uncomfortable, topic to discuss with a hormone-raging teenager. Besides, they are going to a one-gender boarding school. So you’d rather save ‘the talk’ for when they come for the holidays and start fooling around in the neighbourhood. Well, your child will have interactions with the opposite gender. Perhaps more than you think. Remember the Swahili saying about asiyefunzwa na mamaye?( He who is not taught by the mother)
Don’t wait for other hormone-raged older teenagers to give your ‘baby’ lopsided advice on how to interact with members of the opposite gender. Let them know that it is healthy and that they can cultivate non-romantic friendships with each other and still be normal.
3.On high school food
High school got me hooked on cabbage and porridge. The souped cabbage. The porridge with a burnt taste hinting that ugali reincarnated as porridge. Those two could easily rank up as world’s most hated foods. But I eat anything, as long as I’m assured it won’t come back up.
Your kids aren’t like me though. Porridge is something that they only take when under duress. They don’t even like their bread without butter. Even if they are like me, it is advisable to prepare them for the ‘culture shock.’
There will be a massive difference in both quality and quantity. Don’t, however, go on a tirade about githeri filled with weevils, uncut veggies and other crap you believe about high school food. It is not that bad!
Just let them know that they won’t die from the food, though running stomachs may be common in the first days, and they shouldn’t spend the little money you give them in the school canteen. The food is not that bad, honestly.
Last year, news on some top schools exposed the bullying that goes on with the school turning a blind eye to it. The stories were extreme and heart-wrenching. To be honest, though, bullying has greatly reduced in high schools. Reduced, not totally done away with. So your child is certainly going to get bullied. How he handles such situations will determine whether they enjoy their stay in school or not!
Do they become a crybaby who reports every minor incident to the administration? Become everyone’s enemy and end up miserable. Take it all in without a wince? Become the bullies’ favourite pastime. Go for ‘eye for an eye’?
Terrible idea! Sometimes, in fact, most times, all they will need to do is approach the bully and politely inform them of how uncomfortable they make them. If things don’t improve, then they can escalate.
I had previously written how teachers also bully students. You can read it here; http://www.afromum.com/child-going-bullied-high-school/ The same goes for such scenarios. Fortunately, teachers are bound to be more considerate and you might realise it was just a misunderstanding. Unless you rejected their advances in college and they are hell-bent on taking revenge on your kid.
It might be an opportunity to learn amicable conflict resolution. A skill this country lacks because we are used to hardline stances and bullying our way through things.
Let your kid know that the pocket money you will be giving them should be a good foundation to start practicing personal financial management. You don’t expect them to come out of high school self-made billionaires from the little you are giving them, but you don’t want to be incessantly receiving calls from the school that your kid is broke and frustrated.
It is never too early to start learning about personal financial management.
Bonus advice: You pay Activity Fee every year, tell them to get active in extracurricular activities even if they suck at it. They should just find one they suck less at. Let them spend to the last coin your hard-earned cash the school is squeezing out of you! And like my dad told me, “ukitoka shule kila mtu hapo akuwe amejua wewe ni nani. Ata kama ni kwa kukula. Lakini usijulikane na kitu mbaya.” (Let everyone know who you are by the time you are leaving school, even if it is just being the best in eating.Just Let it not be a bad thing)
And oh, remind them not to do drugs!