How early does your child wake up for School?

The launch of the PEP Academy at Muzomuhle School in Umlazi, March 15, 2010. Picture by Rogan Ward

School going children

Following a new directive by Kenya’s education Permanent Secretary, Jacob Kaimenyi that prohibits children from reporting to school earlier than 7.15am, the debate on how early children need to be wake up or what time they ought to be in school or generally, how much of their lives needs to be spent in school, is one that has been in all the media from discussion on radio to discussion in Facebook groups to twitter.

According to the Basic Education Regulations 2015, which were gazetted last month, learners should not be in school earlier than 7:15am.

Prof Kaimenyi expressed concern that some schools were forcing learners to report to school as early as 5.00am.

“This is unethical educational practice that exposes learners to risks of getting to school that early hour of the day,” said the education Cabinet Secretary.

The regulations also requires both public and private schools to operate from Monday to Friday. Class hours are supposed to be from 8 am to 3.30pm and 3.30pm to 4.45pm is time for co-curriculum activities.

All institutions with boarding facilities are required to operate 24/7 with 8am to 3.30pm being class hours.

“From 3.30pm to 4.45pm is time for co-curriculum activities from Monday to Friday, 5 pm to 7:30pm is for self-direct activities Monday to Friday,” states the regulations.

This has not augured well with the teachers’ unions such as KUPPET which has given Kaimenyi a seven day ultimatum to retract the gazette notice as they were not consulted.

The subject of how early some children of primary & even nursery school going age have to wake up either to be in school by 6am  due to the distance from home to school is one that has been of concern to many Kenyans. There has been a growing concern by many of the working class Kenyans who in a bid to beat the morning traffic, leave their houses as early as 5am. Many have witnessed school going children as young as 10 years at the bus stop or just outside their estates that same hour in the mornings, waiting for their school bus.

So for a child to be at the bus stop or outside at 5am in the morning, what time did they wake up? You will note that the same trend repeats itself in the evenings, the child leaves school at 6pm, takes about 2 hours on the road only to get home at 8pm or later. The child still has to do their homework, take a bath, eat and sleep early in order to be up by 4am the following day. This cycle repeats itself everyday for 5 days in a week. For most schools, upper primary school pupils still have to go on Saturdays for half a day.

I wrote an article sometime back on finding the ideal kindergarten for your child. This was prompted by my experience looking for a good school for our daughter 2 years ago. I believe at some point, I wrote that, we opted to move houses in order for our daughter to easily get to school. That might seem like a huge sacrifice but sometimes, we as parents become quite selfish choosing comfort and class at the expense of our children.

I do not get how its possible to take your child to Makini School in Kilimani when you live on Mombasa road, Jogoo road or Thika road where you or the school bus have to beat traffic on several highways twice everyday. Are we saying that Makini & Riara schools are the only good schools in Nairobi? Even if they are, is it worth our children waking up that early, taking more than 3 hours on the road everyday just to get education.

If we as adults find the Nairobi traffic unbearable yet we understand what causes it and can attribute it either to bad governance and/or corruption and can while away the time by going online, what about our kids who, for some, the concept of sitting in a vehicle in one place for hours with nothing to do, waiting to go somewhere is not one they comprehend yet?

Kaimenyi has a point and I fully support him on this matter because our kids are being forced to become adults even before their minds are fully developed to handle such responsibilities or understanding of how the world works.

There are equally good schools near where we live which do not require our kids to wake up at 4am. Alternatively, we can move houses for that duration of 8years if worst comes to the worst. We need to, as parents, stop buying into this pressure that we should only take our kids to good schools that perform well despite it costing our kids sanity getting there everyday.

There is more to the child’s life than seemingly punishing them in abid to get them a ‘good education’.

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