HARARE – Mary Chisi, 36, is married and has two primary school-going children that she has to manage after school.
Chisi’s hands are full as she is also a director at a top company in the capital, Harare.
She used to carry out a “school run”, whereby she would leave everything behind and dash to her children’s school to fetch them, quickly take them home and then go back to work.
Through her routine, she had to contend with the lunch hour traffic congestion.
Chisi complained everyday of being exhausted after the “school run” and of failing to concentrate in meetings.
However, she was introduced to “aftercare educational programme” by a friend.
This programme provides due care and attention to pupils after their normal school hours.
Patience Zingwiro, a single mother, said the aftercare programme works for a lot of mothers.
“It works for mothers and fathers who live far from their children’s school,” she said.
“It is not practical to travel everyday to collect your child from school. Aftercare programme is particularly practical for single parents because they will not have anyone to share the school run with.”
Zingwiro said with the challenges of electricity, it helps to have someone who does homework with your child in the afternoon, leaving time to share quality moments with the child in the evening.
Felicity Savado, a mother of three, said the aftercare programme is good for the busy mom.
“It is best for the busy mom or a working one because it takes time to collect a child from school,” Savado said.
“As for me I am not that busy and I like collecting my children from school and spending the afternoon with them. It gives me time to bond with my children.”
Thabani Dube, a broadcaster and mother, said the aftercare programme was a Western concept that can pose challenges for children and their parents.
“Children should come from school and go home so that they are used to the home environment where they get nurtured,” Dube said.
“I am against aftercare programmes because children will not grow up as a parent wants.”
Reverend Taylor Nyanhete, national director of Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children said, “The debate that you want to generate is important and necessary.
“I assure you of my full support and what would be important is to get an understanding from one or two schools if safety regulations apply to children even if they are outside the school premises. If not, then parents will have to take responsibility.”
Nyanhete said he supports the programme but urged parents to be responsible for it by ensuring the safety of children.
The Daily News on Sunday visited an aftercare programme situated in Belvedere, Harare.
Children were given a chance to learn in a playful way after school.
Aftercare takes the place of a parent.
The environment is home-like, and pupils are given a chance to freely express themselves, and in that manner, individual needs of each pupil are identified and taken care of.
Meria Mari, founder of the Belvedere Aftercare Programme said the services include thorough homework supervision.
“Homework is given as a way of reinforcing what has been learnt at school. It is therefore important that homework exercises are thoroughly and professionally supervised.
“Aftercare has recruited experienced and highly-qualified staff to help pupils in this regard.”
Activities such as story-telling, drama and debate are offered and these are part of character and confidence building strategies.
Life skills development programmes are also offered where girls are conscientised on how they should take care of themselves as they grow up. Boys are also made aware of the various physical development stages.
Both sexes are taught how to be assertive, to make right choices of friends, food, careers, as well as to remain focused on their goals.
First aid and other artistic skills are also part of aftercare activities.
Educational game videos and films are also offered to the children.
Aftercare programme provide the child with a good environment for growth, experts say.
Mari said, “Another factor which influences the child’s behaviour is his or her social environment.
“There are scenarios when pupils, after school has ended say at 1pm, board a commuter omnibus to town to take yet another commuter to their home. In these circumstances, they meet different people with different characters. Sometimes, pupils have been seen loitering in town to while up time, before they go home.
“By so doing, our valuable children, who are supposed to be groomed to be the nation’s pride, are being exposed to delinquent behaviours.”
Mari said what pupils do after school shapes their lives and to a great extent determines their future, it was therefore of paramount importance for parents to make the right decisions concerning their children whilst they are still young.
Aftercare advocates aim to develop not only the intellectual capacity but the social and moral values of children as well.