Here's a post from my dad, who has shied away from identifying the school he is referring to. I don't want you to hazard any guess. But you can recast his question in light of this account to read, What type of child are you?
There are very few things that compare with the joy of becoming a parent. The recognition that through you, another life has come into this world brings with it a lot of joyful responsibilities. These could range from the changing of diapers when baby answers nature’s call to singing and dancing to quieten baby, to rocking the cot to send baby to bed; from clearing harm from pathway as your baby begins to crawl, to watching your baby take the first steps. For many parents, it is difficult to determine who actually the student is when their children start school for the first time.
Once upon a time, picking a school for your child was conditioned by where you lived, the faith you professed, and family traditions. Up till the 70s when mission schools held the word as the lamp to our feet and light to our path, they were the first port of call. Every major church and mosque in the neighbourhood had a school attached to it in the valiant effort to teach boys and girls to not only read and write, but win souls for the Supreme Being. Students were not only educated in the classroom, they also had a disciplined outlook to life. Parents, especially the religious faithful, dutifully enrolled their children in such schools, which were usually a walking distance from their homes. Not surprisingly, generations of families toed such path of educational development.
The mission schools had good competition from the public schools. Nowhere was this most noticeable than during entrance examinations from primary school to the secondary school. The admission list to the top schools usually reflected this healthy rivalry between the mission and public schools.
Not anymore. The public schools have lost out in the race. The mission schools have lost their pre-eminence. Lost also is modesty. The new kings and queens are to be found in private schools. From primary to secondary schools, among the middle class, parents struggle to enrol their children in private schools.
It is not that all is well with private school life. Indeed, there is a lot wrong; with parents; with teachers and with students. Let us look at parents. Anyone who has visited some of these schools during open or visiting day will attest that such a day is an exercise in extravagance. Imagine a parent who has a child in a school, visiting with a whole cooler of food that can feed twenty adults. In addition, parents come armed with paper bags of all colours of the rainbow from all manner of fast food restaurants, displaying rice, French fries, plantain chips, chicken, fish, vegetable salad, fruit salad, cookies, cakes, assorted canned and bottled drinks, and ice cream that you begin to wonder if the food supply is for a month.
Despite pleas from schools that it is standard practice for more students to report at sick bays after such visits, parents are unrelenting in their excessively misguided show of love. Having observed this phenomenon for years, I have come up with a typology of parents who are bent on perpetrating this parental ‘love’.
The first are the Guilty parents. They feel sorry their children have to be away from them at their ‘tender’ ages, even though they realise it is a necessary stage in their socialization into adulthood. They would have loved the children to go to secondary school from home, but the difficulty of commuting daily in urban centres dictates otherwise. Such visits afford them the opportunity to demonstrate their love to their children. So for them nothing is too much for their jewels.
The second are the showboating parents. They are comfortable in their privileged company and enjoy every opportunity to display the comfort. What better way to show their ‘love’ than buying all the treats that money can buy. They are very competitive and cannot afford to be seen to bring anything that can be deemed ordinary.
The choking parents are forever fretful. They want their children to always remember their open show of ‘affection’. Nothing is too much to give the children. The visiting day is just another opportunity to show how much their children are loved; how much they are missed; and how badly they look forward to having them back home.
The last group are the rational parents. They miss their children but do not agree they have to go overboard in making the point. A food supply for two or three students will do for them in the belief that their child can share with a friend or two whose parents may not be around, or who will, in turn, share with them. They are obviously the silent minority.
Their population may not even grow much as they probably provoke good gossip material for other parents, who may even regard them as having barely enough to eat at home. No mother apparently wants to be said of her family: “Look at the father; he is so gaunt, and the wife, she used to be more robust. Since she married that starry eyed man, they have to measure everything; even their love for their child. No wonder they couldn’t bring enough for their poor child”.
And with that mindset, rationality is fast disappearing in the conduct of parents towards children, making one ask: What type of parent are you?