Early morning wake-ups of our school children; walking zombies.

Oh my God!  We could be doing more harm than good when we wake up our children at 5 and 6 am for school or even when we enroll our children into school when they are still infants. Yes and yes, we have barely shared this and have jumped it often but it is time the truth hits our head after all, ignorance of the law is no defense. What is it?  

Researchers have seriously found out that most schools especially our nursery, junior, primary and secondary schools are starting off their daily activities, I mean learning before even 8:00am. Yes, I have woken up early sometimes here in Kampala only to meet very young shivering children walking to schools. Sometimes, I hear these school buses passing in our suburb at 5am calling up and waking up kids of 4, 5, 8, 10, 12, and 15 years to board for school at that time. 

And yes, many of us (parents) are proudly boasting that our kids are in the best performing schools, after all they scored in Distinctions last term.  But have we ever pondered what more we could be doing to our kids when we make them wake up at 5am every morning and return at 6pm as if they are soldiers?  Read on.
In the recent studies by CDC, American schools were found to be averagely starting at 8:03 am. This also seemed very early compared to the school guidelines in their policy.  In her words, Wheaton says, “That’s too early.  It affects the children's inner clocks. We are fighting biology". According to this study, children who wake up so early for school are at a great risk to obesity, depression, drug use, mood swings and irritability and many other emotional and psychological problems. This is because children lack a large chunk of what we call REM (Rapid Eye Movement-sleep). In the words of author Janet Croft, “most children are essentially brain dead when they go to these early classes. Many of them start their day as WALKING ZOMBIES. There we go. I do not think it is hard to imagine what is happening here unless you have never been woken up while sleep asleep and forcefully tried to walk, indeed you feel like walking at the same time asleep. That is how our children are boarding the school shuttles while their eyes and mostly their brain are still asleep.

While some critics say that it is all about sleeping early and then waking up early,  many study findings indicate that most children do not sleep until is 10pm or even later. Looking into our Uganda context and the current technology, our children stay late while on computers, television, smart phones or any other modern equipment and parents live the same life too. Take an example of here, Kampala; most parents are working, get home late at 7-8 or even 9pm after picking their children from the schools. Reaching home at 8 or 9pm, they prepare their supper, or eat their supper (for those with home chefs) and then watch 'agataliiko nfufu' and go to bed at 10, 10:30, 11 or even later. And by 5am, the school bus is making noise outside, how many hours have children slept?

According to many school education policies, children need to sleep between 10 and 11 hours for them to be able to concentrate and study well at school.  Tell me, which child here in Africa, in Uganda, in Kampala is sleeping for even 9 hours averagely?  CDC advises parents and children to have what they call sleep guidelines where parents stop children from spending time on television,  phones and other technological equipments we'd just go to bed after supper. But is this realistic?  Is it totally healthy?  Yes,  I have not taken time to look into pros and cons of allowing children access and use modern technology,  but I do not think it would entirely be okay to restrict their time with tvs,  smart phones,  computers or any other interesting games mbu we are setting them apart for school only. 

About the starting school age for children, most policies recommend 7 for upper/top and 6 for infant classes. According to the policies regulating this in UK, good pre-school services or care is important if we are to increase on the age of our enrollment. This includes parents care and love and having enough time with children before they can start school. The challenge is most of our parents this time; we have no time for children.  So what do we do?  We enroll them at the age of 2, 3, 4 or even 1 year, imagine. According to so many scientific studies, enrolling children at a very young age is very dangerous to both their health and the people around them. Research shows that infants exposed to school pressure,  questioning and answering and several tests at a very tender age makes them perceive the world as unkind and have troubles relating with people when they grow up. Also, it has been proved that children who enroll at a good age, like 7 years easily catch up with those who enrolled long time ago at a young age,  making no academic differences. Meaning what?  There is no gain when we enroll our kids at the age they should staying closer to us,  they will instead be heavily affected mentally and their performance won't be better than their counterparts who join later in years. 

What is the way forward?  The truth is we are busy and cannot meet all the standard care for our children as policies suggest. Besides, in Africa, we do not have enough outlined pre-school care centers or parents to take care of our kids. In other words, we may not wait until our kids are 7 or 8, but seriously we can try 5 or 6. And also, besides, we could try to always find time for our kids too.  I strongly disagree with putting a young kid into a boarding primary school unless situations cannot allow us or we have no other options. About waking up early, we have no excuse. Currently, most schools in Kampala are terribly opening up at 6, 7 or 8am, and picking up our kids at 5 am and 6 am, that is so dangerous.

But there are some few schools that start late, we could choose some and change before it is too late. On the side of policy, school committees especially for the private sector together with parents need to sit and agree on the right time for their children. Government has a lot to do, and all of this is it's responsibility to regulate the private education sector and educational entrepreneurs: they need to focus on the quality of education and producer than just scoring high and making money. Regulation of private sector is so much needed in school fees structure, nutrition, and standards to start up schools, and the syllabus or what to teach and not teach.  Otherwise, we are seeing pupils with distinctions but they are WALKING ZOMBIES.

Finally, as a parent, what is in your mind when you wake up your young child at 5am every morning for school and see him or her return at 6 pm or come back with him by 8 or 9pm?  By the time, that boy or girl is of your age, what will he be like?  Yes, we are probably creating a generation that will be highly educated and innovative in educational and technological ideas but ZOMBIES in social relations and humanly matters.  Yes, we have started seeing it and it will increase unless something is done.  

God be with you
The Complete You Project,  www.nemvicx.blogspot.com


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Born from Uganda, Nemeyimana Vicent (Nemvicx) has become what people call, "coming from nothing to something". Professionally, he is both a nurse and public health officer and currently works with Mulago National Referral Hospital. In 2016, he wedded his wife and great sweetheart, Amulen Winfred (also a professional Midwife and counsellor). Besides their professions, Nemvicx is an inspirational writer, singer, motivational speaker, author of several digital books. He a theologian and blogger at www.nemvicx.com (The Complete You Ministry).

Contact them at thecompletey@gmail.com