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Education: 7Up

Jaden presenting with his classmates
In a country where the education system is in shambles, the educational options available to parents, especially those of us that are in the middle class and still run on tight budgets, are not many.
There is the option of hiring private tutors for your children, to teach them extra lessons after school. Another is to look for an affordable private school, and trust your wards to their high-priced hands.

With the rise of child molestation, the first option is not too attractive, as we run the risk of exposing our children to predators. The second option is only viable if you can afford it, because the cost is not limited to tuition - there's extra curricular activities to pay for, and other levies like books and materials.
But when your child is still under the age of five, the private tutor option is not even an option. I fall under this category. I had my son with me for longer than most, as he was over a year old before he got introduced into the school system. Before he started going to creche, he was confident in speech, he could call 'Dada', and 'Mimi'. We 'introduced' him to Sesame street episode downloads early, and Tom and Jerry and the likes.
But fast forward two years in a private school, Jaden can barely talk. My once happy child is reclusive, and only expresses himself through actions e.g. if he's thirsty, he goes to look for his bottle and forces it into your hands, or if he is hungry, he goes to get his school lunch bag and gives it to you. He is impatient, and he plays with himself.
Of course I was worried. I was worried sick. Each time I observed other kids at the same age of three, even less, I saw the difference. They could express themselves. They could tell you if they wanted to wee wee, or poo poo. I have to keep watching Jaden for physical cues for these simple things.
Yes, everyone kept saying it would take some time, every child is different and each has his/her own pace etc, but these statements did not ease my worries.

Now I know different. I recently had a medical emergency and had to be in Lagos for an extended period. Of course I took him with me, mostly for my peace of mind. After a few days, I decided to enroll him in a nearby school, till we had to return to base.
1. If you, the mother, feel something is just not right about your child, please do not ignore those instincts, regardless of age. Jaden blossomed at this temp school tremendously. Within a week he was more expressive, looks at you the second you call him, and plays more. Within the past month, he has been less prone to anger tantrums, he sings rhymes all the time, says hello and hi, even greets good morning, or welcome. He eagerly looks forward to doing his homework, or to going to school. At the old school, whenever I was the one to drop him off, he would clutch my hand tighter as we got close to his class. Here, he wont even look back, he runs to his class the second he gets into the building. The changes are amazing to watch. The first time he called me 'mummy' I was in tears. He became more confident in using his left hand, something that I had to keep emphasizing at the other school, because he would come home and even smack himself for using the left.

2. Never judge a book by its cover. Never judge a school by its trappings or the amount of school fees you are paying. The temp school is not big, its in a residential area, its even a preschool, yet they were able to perform wonders for my child. Attending their end of session program yesterday also opened my eyes to the fact that its a general thing: all the parents were happy at the progress in their kids. I saw a lot of activities and was duly impressed by other parents testimonies.

3. I would rather take my child to a small preschool, with great results, than to a big school with no positive change in the said child. In Jaden's current school at our base, their approach is not too good. The teachers and caregivers just say, "Jaden does not talk". They did not put any efforts to helping the child develop that aspect, even after I expressed my concerns more than once. At this temp school, I just had to share my concerns at the initial stage, and they took charge. They did not stand on the fact that the child was not talking, but went about trying to find ways to help him talk. The results were showing within a week.
At the other school, after exams, we usually got an envelope of his exam sheets, and they were always blank. Of course the usual excuse is the child did not take the exam because he could not speak yet. Here, I got the envelope, but with so many different assessment sections, I was all smiles. They use the Montessori methodology, so they assess the overall wellbeing of the child, not just academics. Even academics, the exams were realistic: identify numbers, shapes, letters, while the teacher ticks the ones identified correctly. From the overall assessment, I could even see that the instructors knew Jaden well, and did not generalize.

We have a soft drink in Nigeria, called 7Up. Its green and tastes nice. The drink had a slogan some years back, I am not sure its still in use:
7Up.....the difference is clear
The difference is clear as regards Jaden. I am happy God brought about the circumstances for me to have been able to see the difference.

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Hey mum,
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