Educational Journey with EPHAT MUDENDA
SCHOOL is hard work. No one who has passed through the system can deny this truth. For some people it has been so hard, especially at
elementary level, that there is no way to avoid having to repeat a grade. At a time when we had few secondary schools, in the 80s and 90s, failure to qualify for grade eight automatically meant one repeating their grade seven at primary school.
Among such individuals are some of the best brains this country has ever had, and they can only thank ‘repetition’ for their current success. This is despite the fact that, at that time, they might have been laughed at by their peers for repeating a grade. Those who struggled academically after being retained were ridiculed by their fellow learners, while the ones that performed excellently were ‘hated’ as they were thought to be taking advantage of their previous experience and having an upper hand over the young ones in their new classes.
Whenever a young girl or boy did not do well, particularly in their tests at the end of the term, the excuse was almost always that: “There are ‘repeaters’ in our class.” However, this scenario is no longer common partly because we now have several secondary schools, both public and private, which are integrating unsuccessful candidates with the cream of upper primary school level who pass with flying colours. And, in most cases, parents just want to ‘push’ their young ones so that they can finish school and embark on a career path of their choice.
Retention or ‘staying behind’ can however occur in any grade for several reasons. For example, a grade six pupil who has missed a lot of school because of illness can benefit from repeating a grade. Also, kids who are far much younger than their grade-level peers and have a history of struggling academically can remain in their current grade as others move a step further.
When parents know that their child is struggling with school, whether as a result of having trouble reading or any other challenge, they should discuss the problem with the teacher and how it can be solved. If it’s a matter of intellectual disability, parents/ guardians and school authorities can agree that a child repeats a grade as a way of helping him or her to improve in their schoolwork.
It is also important to appreciate the fact that some children may be developmentally immature – either physically or emotionally. Such learners might be negatively affected by the stress of trying to ‘keep up’. For others, the stress that they might be experiencing could simply be emanating from a classroom environment that affects their behavioural patterns. For instance, if there are bigger boys and girls in a particular class, young ones will feel intimidated and out of place. If this negatively impacts on the latter’s learning process, making them repeat a grade – so that they become free to mingle with their ‘age-mates’ – can actually enhance their academic performance.
If the teachers assure the parents and guardians that not even extra lessons can change a child’s status for the better academically, due to grave challenges in terms of understanding the material in their current grade, repeating a grade may be the best option. And after getting them to the perceived appropriate level, correct instruction and help from teachers will help them make progress as all learning and attention issues are professionally handled.
Those children who can tell you, as a parent, guardian or teacher that they just feel like having another year in the same grade will be helpful to their academic progress are good candidates for repeating a grade. Teachers, school authorities and parents are not trying to be mean when they decide that a child should repeat a grade. They are simply trying to do the right thing so that one learns what he or she needs to learn before moving on.
Whenever parents and teachers think a particular child must repeat a grade, there is need to counsel that young person so that they do not end up being sad and angry, as they think people are talking about them or making fun of them. They must be convinced that ‘I need to get better at some subjects. It’s not a big deal’. The rest should be trained on how to be kind to the repeaters. Let them know that they are their friends who they’ll play with not only in school, but at home too during weekends.
So, as we emphasise high educational standards in the country, it is important to ensure that all learners show their worth through their academic performance and skills acquisition as they proceed to the next grade. If it is necessary, learners must repeat a grade for the sake of a prosperous future. They’ll surely live to cherish that moment in their school life.