SCHOOL HUNTING FOR THE TRIPPERS

My trio starts school by September. They will be one month shy of two years of age. I am all excited about this and a bit overwhelmed thinking about ferrying all three to and fro every day for the next several years. Ahhh. Even the separation anxiety is killing me already. I have kept them largely indoors all these period, safe for family outings, shopping at the mall and fun at our local park. We never did crèche or dropping off for anyone this past couple of years. Honestly, these three would love to get out of the house; I just don’t know how well they’d adjust to life outside the home. I have a couple of good schools penciled down in the neighborhood and I have been going round inspecting each one and asking relevant questions. My questions are mostly on class size, number of teachers and handlers per class, mode and method of teaching, fees, feeding, extracurricular activities, the all-important security and of course discipline. We are told they will start with playgroup or pre-nursery depending on the school.

Class Size: In my days, the recommended class size for effective teaching was at most 24 per class. The average class then was something like 75- 100 square meters. I really do not know the UNESCO recommendations now, but I saw smaller classrooms both in physical size and the number of pupils. They were mostly 16-20 per class in these smaller classrooms.

Number of Handlers: I wanted to know how many teachers, aunties, assistants and generally handlers per class. Most were 2-3 (1 teacher and 1 assistant or 2 teachers and 1 assistant). At that level, I think 2 teachers, 2 assistants would be ideal for a class of 20. On the average, 1 handler to every 5 children. That’s even overwhelming in my opinion.

Mode of Teaching: Apparently, A for Apple B for ball is long dead and there are modern ways to teaching kids in line with modern thinking and approach to education. Our number one school uses the modern teaching methods. I understand that sound and Montessori elements are used to keep kids thoroughly engaged and active and of course learning and gaining progressively.

Fees: The almighty school fees, that money that keeps parents awake at night and hustling day and night just to ensure they do not default. The money that has to be paid to ensure that children get needed education and become model citizens who would then contribute their quota to the society. That money that has to be paid so the child and parents are not shamed and a child prevented from joining his contemporaries in class. The bill we were given for a singular term for pre-schoolers is probably equivalent for what the average Nigerian federal university takes for a 4 year course during my time. *sigh*

Feeding and logistics: In Europe, I remember that it was compulsory to have at least one meal in school. Lunch was an integral part of being in school and we all looked forward to lunch break. It was the only way the government ensured that pupils got at least one balanced, healthy meal per day. Lunches were properly and carefully prepared. I was in England during one particular summer that the TV chef Jamie Oliver was advocating for a particular set of meals for all school children in England and Wales. Nigeria doesn’t seem to have any comprehensive national policy on school feeding and child nutrition. I understand some states do, but it is mostly in public schools, not privates. We were given the option of bringing food from home or given another set of bill if we wanted our kids fed in school. Hmmm.

Extracurricular activities: Zayd responds to music and football. I allow like one hour of entertainment in the evenings and he gets up once he hears good sound or sees football even if he was about to sleep. Zahra has a peculiar voice and even though she just babbles words out right now, I believe there is something unique about her voice that could be harnessed. I have not been able to place Zayn just yet. I asked if there is a way they could be exposed to music sessions and thankfully yes. We also got taekwando and ballet.

Security: For what Nigeria has become, there is need to find out what measures the school takes in securing its pupils. Even in developed countries, I saw all the gadgets and procedures being put in schools to ensure the safety of pupils. Nigeria is dealing with a major security problem so as much as we pray to God to protect our children, we need to keep putting mechanisms in place to protect these children. Most of the schools had the basic Nigerian uniformed security personnel. I think there should be CCTVs and other technology deployed to use and possibly law enforcement agents nearby. God help us.

Languages: I read somewhere that a child can learn up to 6 different languages before their 6 th birthday. Nigerians speak 3 languages ordinarily– English, Pidgin and our local language. We Muslims have the additional Arabic. That’s 4 already – 2 international, 2 local. The fact that we do so much, we tend not to be well-grounded in any particular language. We still have to write English exams to qualify for admission in English speaking countries, a lot fail these exams. When we speak just the local language, we are deemed backward, local and illiterate. Pidgin English is seen as low class, spoken on the streets and slums. And Arabic is only spoken at prayer times. I would love my three to maximize any opportunity and learn each thoroughly and probably learn two more international languages if we can – French and Mandarin (or Spanish) will be cool. We will try to achieve the mastery of at least 6 languages by their 6th birthday – English, French, Arabic, Yoruba, Hausa, and Pidgin. Possible? A very tall order, but we shall see.

Discipline: I am very big on discipline and I like to know how far the schools would go if any kid misbehaved. Hopefully, they are all good and very well behaved but we never know. There is a full post I did on discipline already.

Separation: I also wanted to know if all three will be kept together in a class or separated. We are told they are better separated and will indeed be separated. Those three are so used to having each other around; they’ve been together right from the belly. I do not know how they will feel away from one another. They always follow each other around the house. *Fingers crossed*

Moms, what are your experiences? Are there other questions we left out?

Keem