By Fr. Lazar Arasu

Joan comes from a middle class family. As it is an ambition of middle class families to educate their children in a best way possible, parents struggled hard to educate their four children. They sacrificed their own comforts for the benefit of their children. Among the four children, Joan was the best behaved and academically gifted. Having received encouragement from her family, she wanted to become a medical doctor. It was her childhood dream. After finishing her Primary 3 class, she insisted on going to a boarding school to “concentrate” better in studies. Even as a child she believed that boarding schools helped children to study better away from home distractions.

Joan left her home at the age of 8 and stayed in boarding school for over 9 months a year. Though she believed that her parents loved her, she had little experience of them. Though she was “well” taken care of by the boarding school, especially the “motherly” matrons, she lacked parental control and the love only parents can give. Though school organised several counselling and guidance to young children, they missed parental guidance and counselling, and more importantly passing on family traditions. Joan’s young mind did not make her understand that living in a family set up is important for building one’s personal conviction and lessons for family life.

The years rolled fast. Joan finished her PLE with flying colours.  Having got used to the boarding at tender age, naturally her choice fell on Boarding Secondary School to continue her educational ambitions. Her parents too find boarding schools a better choice for children’s education. It is convenient, cheaper, hustle and tussle free in bringing up demanding children. They have to “put up” with children for only a few weeks in a term in their family home.

Being a well motivated student, Joan found plenty of time to read and discuss her lessons with fellow students. She also had time for prayer and opportunities to develop her talents. Throughout her years of stay in boarding schools she came across students from different families with different behaviour and beliefs. This consciously and unconsciously had a toll on her behaviour and way of thinking. She grew up with group mentality and “schoolish” behaviour. As a matter of fact the boarding “hang over” will remain with her for many years to come. Now Joan who is 18 years old is in her last year of Secondary Education and her natural choice would be to go to university and stay in girls’ hostel preferably with her former school-mates.

When boarding schools are becoming less common in many parts of the world, they are still order of the day in several African countries and Uganda in particular. At times parents send all their children to Boarding Schools and they feel free to “organise” their family life when children are away. They find it cheaper to maintain them in boarding schools rather than cater for their many unnecessary demands while they are at home. It is a fact that it is hard for parents to control, monitor and guide four or five children in a family. So boarding becomes a easier option. Once their fees and requirements are met in a term parents find themselves “free” to concentrate on their own business. Often times their parental role is exhibited (on demand by school) only on Visiting Days of the school and at the beginning and the end of school terms.

Adolescent children too are made to believe that boarding schools are part of their life and they don’t want to be missed out of this “experience”. While many good things are being imparted to children at the boarding schools such as learning to live with others, personal responsibility, care for oneself, good social behaviour, etc. unknowingly many bad habits and bad influence from other students are imbibed. It is possible that children miss out parental love and lessons of family life. There are lessons in life that can be imparted only by one’s father and mother.

Now it is the responsibility of the parents to pay attention to imparting these lessons of life which are often more important than academic lessons. It is important for parents to find time to be with children during term holidays, discuss their boarding experience – the good and the bad, and impart family traditions to them. Children would be fortunate if they are in a school that care for their religious, moral and personal growth.

It is also important for parents to visit their children regularly at school during school meetings, visiting days or when called for. Regular meeting with the school management and those who care for them in the boarding sections will create in children a sense of “cared for” or even a healthy fear that they are followed. It is also good for parents to be updated on their children’s well-being. Boarding schools should make it their foundation principle to care for the growth of children beyond academics and school needs. When schools and families fail to do their “parental upbringing” it is possible to bring up citizens who are social misfits.