Extra-Curricular Can Transform Your Child

Extra-curricular….one of my most favourite words! Having been brought up in the 8-4-4-system of education when it was first implemented, we often wondered why we were being punished to learn such subjects as home science, woodwork, metalwork, arts and crafts. The projects seemed so difficult at the time. Why make a bamboo flute? Why knit a baby’s sweater? Or why have a plot in a shamba somewhere to grow carrots?

Students are being churned out of a strictly academic conveyor belt!

We are now realising the benefits of what we were learning, after the phasing out of extra-curricular activities in the 8-4-4 system. However,what we are seeing, are the very negative results this absence is having on our children.Now caught up in this lopsided system, where students are being churned out of a strictly academic conveyor belt!

It is important to excel academically, but that is only half the story…

The essence of my discourse here is to express the need for extra-curricular involvement as a requirement, and not an option for a child’s holistic development. Academic achievement has too much emphasis in Kenya. Granted, it is important to excel academically, but that is only half the story… In the global space, one day your very smart (academically) child will be sitting at the admissions desk of Harvard, Yale or Oxford University together with competitors from India, China, Singapore and Finland, and the Admissions Officer will ask what else you have to offer apart from your ‘A’ grade. And therein lies the disaster. The typical Kenyan child will have nothing to show.in addition they will have no experience in anything else.

Children in Finland…go to school up to 2 p.m.

Children in Finland, which I use as my measure of education excellence, as it is the top education systems in the world rankings, go to school up to 2pm. They then engage in sports and other extra-curricular activities by force. It is here where they hone their skills as musicians, artists, designers, chefs, singers, etc. One just has to look at the GDP of the country, the social balance, the low levels of crime, low levels of corruption and so on, to see how this system has worked wonders. The children are well balanced,they use up their energies fully, they have relatively good physical health and they are skilled in so many areas! It is a generally peaceful society.

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I have had the blessing of seeing the fruits of investing in my own children’s extra-curricular development, having spent several hours sitting by a swimming pool, soccer pitch, at music classes, art classes, etc. Consequently,

the children have exposure to different things and i pray that they will never struggle to look for employment solely on the basis of academic results. Our house has a full wall dedicated to medals and trophies, and the children (or should I say parents) are proud of their achievements 🙂

Our goal is simply exposure, exposure, exposure!

Here in Kenya, I have been working at St George’s Primary School for the last two years. Together with other members of our Alumni Association, we have gone back to the school to give back to the school community. Apart from improving structures and facilities, our main involvement has been through the running of extra-curricular activities. We have managed to run the program using professional volunteers and the results so far have been astounding! Granted that Kenyan public schools have a shortage in resources we have successfully run over 18 clubs for the students.

They look forward to Friday afternoons all week! So far they have had the opportunity to meet with international and local celebrities and professionals,people who are successful because of their skills. Therefore, our goal is simply exposure, exposure, exposure! One day there will be great success stories from these children and they will attest to the seed that we are now planting in them in primary school.

Talents that the individuals found as hobbies…developed into fully fledged businesses

Looking at it from an economic perspective, check out any millionaire or billionaire lists globally. Research on the individuals topping those lists and most likely you will find that they have involvements in sports, music, technology, agriculture, etc. These were talents that the individuals found as hobbies which developed into fully fledged businesses. Additionally somebody somewhere gave them a chance to explore the road less travelled. This is what success is all about.

Get your child exposed

I’d love to be very clear about not misconstruing or underestimating the importance of academics in a child’s development. However,the key point to not forget to balance it out with skills, hobbies and sports must be emphasized! Remember that even the world’s highest paid plastic surgeons had to have been good at home science to be able to sew!Therefore,get your child to have all the exposure you possibly can and they will pleasantly surprise you in the future!

Some important points to note:-

1. Sacrifice the time and investment as a parent. For a child to become skilled at anything they need to practise, practise, practise. This may result to several hours at a music class, sitting at the swimming pool or attending competitions at the crack of dawn. It will pay off.

2. Ask around for the best professionals to train your child. Just because somebody claims to offer the class doesn’t mean they are good at what they do.
3. Talk to other parents in the neighbourhood to see if they want to join in, group rates could apply and transport may become cheaper all around.
4. Realize the difference between a hobby and competitive activity. One can turn into the other at some point, however if a child enjoys leisure swimming for example, don’t force them to go competitive unless they want to.
5. Extend positive affirmation for even the smallest strides a child may make. Be their biggest cheerleader, give them a high-five once in a while and make them understand the world is their oyster!


1. Assume that all extra-curricular activities are expensive. Many are very cheap and even free to learn. Life skills like sewing, knitting, bead-work, weaving etc are very affordable.
2. Project your own interests on your child if they really want to do something different. Just because you never ended up as an Olympic champion in rugby doesn’t mean you should force your child to take it up.
3. Allow your child to give up easily. To move from ‘GOOD’ to ‘GREAT’ several hours and hard work have to be put in to anything. Let them have exposure to the activity as much as possible to make a decision on the future for that skillset.

Naomi Konditi-Kivuvani is the Secretary of the St George’s Primary School Alumni. She is a mother of 3 children and very passionate about transforming the public education system in Kenya. She continues to put her heart and soul into public school transformation starting with the #ShuleYetu project at St. Georges that will serve as a model prototype to be adopted in the region. More info available here

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