Experts in Harare have expressed doubt over the benefits of extra lessons for children and teens.
Extra lessons have become commonplace over the years, often provided by individual teachers or schools themselves. There have been clashes between the Ministry of Education and teachers over this supplementary income, and some debate around the pros and cons of extra lessons in aiding learning.
Most students in Harare from as early as grade one up to form six are spending the whole day in study, as they are required to attend extra lessons on top of their morning classes.
To pay for these, parents have been forced to part with significant amounts of money as they strive for better results. However, it is concerning to note that the country’s national examination pass rates have not been reflective of the extra hours and income that is being invested in schooling.
Ralph Mupa, a Harare based motivational speaker and life coach, said that extra lessons are a cultural thing born during the hyper inflationary days in 2008 when teachers were looking for ways to supplement their meager incomes.
“I believe they are a delinquent siphoning of resources by those practicing. The effects of extra study hours on learners include work overload and fatigue, as well as preferential commitment to one education source at the expense of another,” explained Mupa.
Another expert Felicity van de Ruit, an occupational psychologist with expertise in education, said that there are a few situations in which extra lessons can be helpful in the development of self-confidence and self-esteem, but that ideally they would not be necessary.
“I would prefer to see an education system that enables children to learn and thrive without them being necessary. When long study hours come at the expense of other activities that support the development of a whole and well-rounded child this is not ideal,” explained van de Ruit.
“Younger children need sufficient time to play and rest. Provided teenagers do have opportunities to have fun, pursue hobbies, and get enough rest, then learning to juggle long periods of study with other commitments can help them develop time management and coping skills that can benefit them greatly in life,” added van de Ruit.
One teacher who spoke to Harare News on condition of anonymity revealed that there was not much benefit in extra lessons considering the way that they were now being done.
“In normal cases, extra lessons are mostly vital for students who will be preparing for exams. But, we are now conducting extra lessons to supplement our income. Most teachers at our school are now conducting extra lessons for students from grade one and I understand that this might lead to work overload on the children,” said the primary school teacher.
In contrast, most parents interviewed by Harare News said that extra lessons were necessary to ensure that their children got the best shot at a good education. Mai Ruvarashe (37) from Westgate justified sending her kids to extra lessons, citing preferential treatment for attendees and classroom overcrowding as motivating factors.
“It is now common that teachers no longer teach our children during normal school hours, preferring to dedicate more energy on extra lessons. So, as a parent I am left with no option other than to pay for my child to attend. The other issue is that most of the classes in schools are now overcrowded and that does not give room for one-on-one interaction between the teacher and a student. So extra lessons will provide the chance for special attention for my child,” said Mai Ruvarashe.