In Summary
  • Child’s vision matters
  • Integrity matters
  • Teachers’ stability
  • Fees structure

WHAT TO CONSIDER. In this era, with parents working tooth and nail to ensure their children attain the best in education, how do they choose school for their toddlers? CAROLYNE B ATANGAZA finds out.

Forever gone are idyllic days of when a school’s proximity was the basic determinant of a child’s preschool education. Because our children live in a more complex and diverse world than the one in which we grew up, they need every help they can get as early as possible to enable them cope in a global environment.

Child’s vision matters
Kyle Mero, the YPcoordinator at Acorns International School in Bukoto, is well aware of the difficulties involved in choosing the right school for a child but tips parents to first have an articulate vision of their child’s education needs. This, he advises, will narrow down the choices and make the decision manageable.
“Parents should thoroughly think about what they want their child to achieve with the education they choose. Sometimes these decisions are rushed, which later cause problems when the child’s education begins to clash with the parents’ beliefs. I have witnessed parents’ discomfort at the realisation that the education they have chosen for their child is pumping them with so many possibilities that they deem untenable. To be safe, look for a school that complements your beliefs and especially your vision for your child,” Mero advises.

Every education programme has a philosophy that is integral to what and how children are taught. For instance, some schools follow an International Baccalaureate (IB) primary years programme. Designed for pupils from three to 12 years, this programme focuses on the development of the child as an inquirer, both in the classroom and in the world outside. It encourages international-mindedness in pupils, a positive attitude to real life by encouraging learning beyond traditional subjects.

Thanks to the privatisation of education in Uganda, parents now have diverse programmes from which to choose; apart from the local curriculum, there are schools that have a blend of both local and international curriculum, and while others have a variety of international programmes. Each programme has its unique advantages. “The biggest advantage an international school has is its diversity and complexity of cultures. The 21st century is a world of intricate challenges and diversity and an international school provides a safe and hospitable environment for children to learn how to navigate such challenges. Children learn more about each other’s beliefs as well as testing and strengthening their own. I was born and raised in a small American town where everyone knew everyone and we all believed the same things, but this kind of life is not applicable for the modern world where global migration is the norm. No place equips a child for this life better than an international school,” Mero observes.
Integrity matters

What does the school stand for, but more importantly do they practice what they claim? It is one thing for a school to assure appropriate care for a child and another thing for them to deliver on this. Your child will be spending the biggest portion of their waking hours with these people so you need to make sure that they are invested in their pupil’s education and that they are properly qualified to be in classrooms.

Teachers’ stability
Good schools attract and retain great teachers. Find a school where the teachers are not being interchanged erratically because this interferes with the child’s relationship with them. If every term you see new faces in classrooms, that is not a good sign. Millicent Taweka, a mother, says she usually vets teachers by having a conversation with them about their current classroom. “They should be able to speak about individual students’ strengths and weaknesses and be well informed of their background, interests, emotional and academic achievements. You want a teacher who takes great pride in his or her students’ progress and is consistently open to their improvement,” Taweka says.

The school menu
A balanced diet that is fairly accommodative for majority of the children is ideal. Loy Komurembe, an administrator at Modern Tots Early Learning Centre, Kiwatule Road, says that a balanced diet for children cannot be stressed enough. “Every child should get their full share of a nutritionally well-balanced meal since they spend most of their day at school. The school should also find ways to accommodate the picky eaters,” Komurembe advises.

Fees structure
These days kindergartens charge more than some university courses. The cheapest international school could charge $786 (approx Shs 2.8m) per term while average local schools charge about Shs 700,000 per term. It is one thing to have dreams for your child and another thing to be fiscally irresponsible. Do not be forced to live beyond your means in the name of getting your child a great education, sometimes the expense does not guarantee success. Find a school that is a great match for your child’s needs and will not lead you to destitution. So do your homework; your neighbourhood kindergarten could be as good as the international school that costs $30,000 (approximately Shs108m) a year.

You should be able to feel no anxiety regarding your child’s safety at school. What safety measures does the school have in place? Do they have a security guard? Is the pool area out of your toddler’s reach? Is the school baby proofed for sneaky toddlers? These are the things you should be looking out for on the school tour.
Girls toilets should be separated from the boys and that they should be clean, safe and secure.
She adds that a good school environment should be able to facilitate supervised play time to keep the children safe from physical harm because apart from the obvious physical benefits of exercise, studies show that it increases cognitive functioning.