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Commentary: Back to school
Published on September 5, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Sonia Boddie

As the children and young people of the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis head back to school, for the most part immaculately groomed for the commencement of a new school year, I wish to bid each of them a successful and productive school year, blessed with fun-filled learning experiences.

I also wish to share some words of advice to both parents and students alike, from my perspective both as a former teacher and as a concerned citizen.

Sonia Boddie is the CARICOM Youth Ambassador of St Kitts and Nevis.
Parents, I imagine that most of you are probably now breathing a sigh of relief that the back-to-school buying ‘frenzy’ is over, and that despite the challenging economic times being faced at the global level and replicated here, you were able to send your child/children back to school looking smart and well equipped to boot. I salute you and, indeed, you do deserve a pat on the back for that feat. However, allow me to just plug in a reminder that your job was not at all completed after you totalled your shopping receipts.

As your child/children advance to a new school or grade, it is important that you take the time out of your busy schedule, to visit the school, become familiar with the class teacher, form teacher, head teacher, and, in the case of secondary schools, with other teachers where necessary. This will enable you to gain an understanding of what are your own and your child’s rights, responsibilities and obligations with the learning institution, so that from the get-go, expectations of all parties are understood.

I can recall, when I was a teacher, one day at the end of the school term, while I was engaging in discussions with some other persons, a parent approached the door and said, “ Morning. Ah looking for teacher Ms Boddie. Who is teacher Ms Boddie?” I responded to the parent, by introducing myself, and he did the same, noting he was the parent of a child who was in my class, and that the purpose of his visit was to collect his child’s report card.

At that moment, it became very obvious that the parent had no idea who I was, and had failed to visit the school for the entire term, as we were both complete strangers. I can recall asking the parent if he thought it was right for me to give him his child’s report card when I hardly knew him, and he hadn’t visited the school anytime previously to find out how his child was progressing, in what areas she may have needed help, and what additional assistance could he have provided to the child.

After listening to various lame excuses, I eventually issued the report card, but not before also issuing some stern words of encouragement to the parent to become more active in the child’s academic life.

I say that to emphasize, parents, that your child’s success does not depend on whether he/she has all the texts on the book list, has the best teachers, or is gifted. A lot of a child’s success certainly depends on the parental support that is provided to him or her.

Children whose parents demonstrate an interest in what they would have learnt each day at school, and who inquire whether they have homework, and assist them with the homework or find someone who can so assist, in the cases where they cannot do so themselves, and who visit or call the school to get regular updates on their children’s progress, are children who generally perform and behave better from my experience. Study and research have also proven this definitively.

To the children, I say to each of you, you must take full advantage of the free education that is afforded to you. Attend all classes, be punctual, pay attention, study hard, complete all assignments, ask questions when in doubt respect yourself, your teachers, your peers, respect the school property, and all those educational resources that would have been loaned or given to you to assist you with your studies.

I was very alarmed recently, while walking through a residential area in Basseterre, to see a teenager playing on his “landing”, while his government-donated laptop sat unbalanced on the edge of the landing’s bar, awaiting an inevitably destructive fall to the floor. I can recall yelling to the lad and summoning him to immediately remove the laptop from that position, and giving him a scolding about the value of the laptop and all other items that are provided to him, the cost of which he had never counted, since they were all given to him free of charge.

Children, I say to you, CARE YOUR THINGS! Your books and laptops should be kept just as neatly as you do your hair, uniforms and your classrooms.

So, to the parents, students and teachers of this Federation, I say continue working amicably together, to ensure that the chances of having an exceedingly successful school year are very probable, and the performance rate of our schools for the upcoming year can better those of years past.
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