Summer Time Sadness

Summer vacations were a great way for kids to engage in activities that busy school calendars otherwise did not permit being pursued. Summer schools offered a myriad opportunities for learning; French, computer skills, swimming lessons, music classes and whatnot. But that was before the Punjab government placed a ban on these activities during vacations. That’s simply not great.

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n idle mind is a devil’s workshop. And you do not truly grasp the meaning of this proverb until you become a parent tending after kids, especially ones that have nothing particular to do per se except sit at home. This and other such things are exactly that make rounds in Huma’s* mind as she takes a gander at a wreck of a room her kids have left for her. And it’s only 8 o’clock in the morning. With a heavy heart, and an even heavier sigh, she begins the long toil to cleanliness. She finds her daughter’s doll, its hair smothered in some sort of paint (Psst, it is Hume’s hair coloring dye), the blanket on the floor has greasy remains of an early morning raid on the kitchen, and the morning newspaper has been turned into what appears to be several failed attempts at origami planes and boats. Oh, wait, the shower has been left running again. Just two weeks into the 12-week long summer vacations, Huma, a mother of three, is seriously considering finding a constructive occupation for her children aged 7, 9 and 12, fast! She saw an advertisement for music classes for kids the other day, but the institute was in a far-off corner of the city that is not particularly considered very safe. There was another about swimming classes, but she and her husband were way too skeptical about the hygiene at a public pool.

 

The government needs to pragmatically look at the upsides of summer schools and the numerous benefits it brings to parents and children alike.

Ban And Beyond

In contrast, all such thoughts did not cross the parent’s mind the previous year when the school their kids go to arranged a summer camp with a host of activities for kids to engage in during the vacations, or at least a good portion of the vacations. Last year, Huma’s kids learnt the basics of Spanish language, got to know about raising plants in a gardening course and her eldest son improved on his piano skills under the mentor ship of a seasoned musician. This year though, Huma and many such parents are finding it hard to keep kids engaged during the mandatory summer vacations. All schools have been strictly ordered shut during the vacations by the Government of Punjab following complaints from a section of parents that some private schools were minting money through students by arranging sham and forceful summer camps that really did not offer much to the pupils. The complaints must have been genuine, and warranted a thorough investigation on part of the government. But instead of going through the hassle of separating the exploiters from the do-gooders, the authorities thought it apt to do what was the easiest thing to be done. Ban all schools, irrespective of the intent behind arranging these summer camps. 

All schools have been strictly ordered shut during the vacations by the Government of Punjab following complaints from a section of parents that some private schools were minting money through students by arranging sham and forceful summer camps that really did not offer much to the pupils

Ain’t Just Fun

Summer schools were not really reserved just for offering fun activities to students and offer some respite from their antics to parents at home. Most summer schools are a mix of academic and leisure activities, with the academic portion of the camp aimed at helping struggling students get up to par with the rest of the class through additional coaching. This in itself is enough reason for many parents to enroll kids in summer schools. And though this might not be an attractive enough reason for children to head happily to school even during vacations, the myriad fun activities that accompany the few hours of studies certainly make the sojourn to school worth the while. Plus, there was the bonus of continuously staying in touch with friends at school, and hardly any kid does not love that. Another reason that made summer schools really effective was the peace of mind and the sense of security achieved through sending children into a territory that was familiar to both parents and kids. The summer camps are mostly overseen by the very people a school-going child interacts with throughout the year. The facilities, hygiene, food and security made available at the premises is well known to parents. And while individual coaching centers may offer more tailored services, they simply cannot compete with the ease and comfort a school environment can provide.  Larger schools like Convent of Jesus and Mary, Aitchison College and some branches of LGS and Beacon-house School System do still arrange these summer camps. But it comes at a price. These schools, or branches of schools, pay hundreds of thousands of rupees to the government in fines for flouting the ban on activities in summer vacations and that cost is naturally reflected in the inflated charges for partaking in these summer schools, whether parents like it or not.

Little Alternatives

But to be fair, summer schools or camps remain the single half-decent outlet parents can provide their children to keep their minds constructively and creatively engaged during the vacations. It is safe to assume that the summer holidays’ assignments are delayed until the last week before schools reopen by most children, and the assignments themselves are far less interesting than things that a typical child of today fancies. So much for school work keeping the child engaged. Then there is the hot weather that beckons the summer vacations in the first place. The scorching heat doesn’t really leave much room for children to be let out of homes until after sunset. That makes visits to the park or playing fields during the day out of bounds and an unnecessary wish for a heat stroke. And once the sun sets, there are really not many outdoor avenues available where children can engage in physical activities to let out pent up energy of the body and the mind.

 

Summer schools or camps remain the single half-decent outlet parents can provide their children to keep their minds constructively and creatively engaged during the vacations

Children that head to schools have become creatures of routine, and need something to look forward to every day in order to keep healthily engaged with their environment. Being naturally curious and full of energy, children need mental as well as physical stimuli that challenge them enough to keep their interest going and allow them to burn off the seemingly unlimited supply of energy. For that, YouTube, PlayStation and a burger with fries just will not do. The concept of summer schools has remained absent in public sector schools in its entirety since ever, and it’s really tragic that the blanket ban by the government is pushing private schools in that direction too. The government needs to pragmatically look at the upsides of summer schools and the numerous benefits it brings to parents and children alike. On the other hand, it must muster the courage to do some hard labor by finding out educational enterprises that are fleecing parents through their sham summer program and take them to task. Banning activities outright is the most convenient tool at a government’s disposal. History tells us it is often the most ineffective.

M Azam Mahmood Butt has an MBA from IBA and is the editor for academia Magazine,He has previously been part of  the English language news media industry ,and  also worked in the retail and real estate sectors. HE can be reached at editor@academiamag.com