Ban Visiting Days in High Schools

Ban Visiting Days in High Schools


By Maurice Amutabi


A story in an old school magazine recently caught my attention. The story was about the ‘celebratory mood that engulfed our school last weekend” when our parents from all over the world converged to see their children. The story goes on to add that the visiting was so emotional because some of the parents had been away on tour of duty for the Empire for almost a year. The story justifies why visiting days are better than midterm or half-term breaks allowed in some schools “when some of the African students return with strange things and habits, and indulge in heathen practices” such as circumcision and taking oaths on such breaks.


I have been wondering how this notion of ‘visiting days’ entered our school systems, until I stumbled on this story. Visiting days in boarding schools were started in colonial days, for schools in empire. Parents who served in empire, in places such as India, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa would return to the United Kingdom or Kenya and visit their children, usually once a year. The practice started in elite public schools and private high cost schools where there were many white children in the colonial days. ‘Elite’ schools have embraced visiting days while regular ones preferred midterm break for their students.


Visiting day is a colonial legacy, embraced as a ‘high culture’ practice by gullible Africans. Many of the parents who imported this practice in Kenya saw visiting days as an opportunity to bond with their children and would therefore spend the whole weekend in the school. Many of these individuals had one child, making it possible to commit an entire weekend on school visit.


Today, few Kenyan parents stay away from their children for a whole year because there are school holidays in April, August and December when children go home to be with their parents. There is no longer the British Empire and no parent spends a year on tour of duty on empire in India or Australia. Many of the parents are in Kenya throughout the year. Therefore, it makes no sense to allow this colonial practice to continue in our schools in Kenya.


I have recently been shocked to witness what parents are doing during visiting days in high schools. There is great lavishness and display of wealth to a point where parents are competing to visit with larger family entourages, bigger and luxurious cars, and recently a helicopter landed a parent (a cabinet minister) on one of the schools. There are some who come with professional chefs or hired caterers, to prepare and serve food and drinks to the lucky kid and his or her friends. They come with tents and picnic chairs and tables. This is wrong and bad for the rest of the children, especially the poor ones whose parents arrive on foot with few chapatti, sweet potatoes and arrow roots, and a flask of hot tea.


The vision of the Ominde Commission report of 1965 in recommending use of school uniforms in schools was to ensure some equality. Uniformity makes learning fair and balanced and does not terrify some learners. As presently organized, visiting days make some students frightened and depressed when they look around and see opulence which they cannot afford it. I have heard stories some children run away from their parents when they show up on foot or in old cars on visiting days. Visiting days are no longer used to see children but for boastful parents to display their wealth and show off.


Parents are put under a lot of financial strain. Many schools have visiting days on the first Saturday of the month and yet some parents have more than two children attending schools in different parents of the country. It becomes very hard to attend to all of them.


The solution to this outlandish western tradition is to ban visiting days totally from our schools. Many Kenyan parents are of the opinion that visiting days should be banned because they do not promote equality and egalitarianism. Parents are equally against half term (or midterm) break, which is also colonial. Let children learn uninterrupted and come home during schools holidays.


Prof. Amutabi teaches at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.


About African Interdisciplinary Studies Association Website

Prof. Maurice Nyamanga Amutabi is President of African Interdisciplinary Studies Association (AISA), a pioneer professional associaiton bringing together members from all disciplines in Africa and abroad. He is a former Fulbright Scholar who previously worked as Deputy Vice Chancellor at Kisii University and also Director of Research and Professor in Peace and Strategic Studies at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), 2010-2013. He has previously taught at Central Washington University, USA (2005-2010) in African Studies Programme and Moi University (1992-2000) in the Department of Development Studies and other public universities in Kenya. Prof. Amutabi holds a PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA in History and African Studies. He received his B.A (Hons) in 1989 in Political Science and History and M.A in 1991 from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. Maurice Amutabi is co-editor of Regime Change and Succession Politics in Africa: Five Decades of Misrule (with Shadrack Wanjala Nasong’o) – in 2013. Amutabi also co-edited Africa after Fifty Years: Retrospections and Reflections (with Toyin Falola and Sylvester Gundona) in 2012. Amutabi is the author of The NGO Factor in Africa: The Case of Arrested Development in Kenya (New York: Routledge, 2006). Amutabi is co-author of Nationalism and Democracy for People-Centered Development in Africa (Moi University Press, 2000). He has also co-authored Foundations of Adult Education in Africa (Cape Town/Hamburg: Pearson/UNESCO, 2005). He has written two novels, Because of Honor (a novel on Islam in Africa) and These Good People (a novel on corruption in Africa). Amutabi is also the author of Nakhamuma Stories (a collection of short stories from the Abaluyia community of western Kenya). His chapters have appeared in over thirty books. His articles have appeared in several refereed and reputable journals such as African Studies Review, African Contemporary Cultural Studies, Canadian Journal of African Studies, International Journal of Educational Development; and Jenda: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. Amutabi has made presentations at over one hundred national and international conferences. Amutabi is the Vice-President of the Kenya Studies and Scholars’ Association (KESSA), Kenya’s premier research and academic organization. He is the editor-in-chief of Kenya Studies Review and Eastern Africa Journal of Humanities and Sciences. Prof. Amutabi has conducted extensive research on many issues of development. He has taught courses on peace and conflict and gender and development. He teaches in the PhD and Masters Programme in the Institute of Peace and Security Studies at Kisii University. He enjoys blogging and writing and is an avid sports fan, but does not support any of team, preferring to support the team that plays well.
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