JUSTINE, a city banker, habitually braves Kampala’s heavy evening traffic jam after work to rush home and help her six-year-old son do his homework.
Mon Jul 04 2011 .
How much homework is enough for your child?
Vision Reporter
Journalist @ New vision
JUSTINE, a city banker, habitually braves Kampala’s heavy evening traffic jam after work to rush home and help her six-year-old son do his homework.
By Chris Kiwawulo

JUSTINE, a city banker, habitually braves Kampala’s heavy evening traffic jam after work to rush home and help her six-year-old son do his homework.

Whether she has had a hectic day or not, homework has become part of Justine’s daily routine so much so that when she gets home, it is among the very first statements she hears from her son.

Justine would have expected to rest as children go for holidays, but most teachers give children homework to keep them revising since the education ministry banned holiday coaching. Therefore, Justine’s Saturdays have to include an hour or two to help her son complete the holiday work.

But just how important is homework in your child’s education and how much help should parents extend to their children?

Aggrey Kibenge, the education ministry spokesperson, says there is no problem with children doing homework, whether during the school term or holidays.

“In holidays, teachers can give children homework and parents have the duty to regulate how much of it they should do per day until the holiday ends,” he says.

Kibenge, clarifies that the ministry only outlawed teaching during holidays but did not stop teachers from giving homework to children to complete at their respective homes.

Commenting on teachers who overload children with homework during holidays, Kibenge says they should be mindful of the value of resting.

“The essence of holidays is to give children some rest although this does not mean that children should only play throughout the holidays.

We keep them busy – teachers
Like Kibenge, Resty Muziribi, the acting commissioner for primary education, supports homework. Muziribi says homework is useful because it is part and parcel of the learning process. She says the type of homework children do depends on what the teachers give out and a child’s class.

“Homework is not only about working out numbers and writing sentences. It can also be practical where children are asked to make handcrafts or drawings and they present them in class,” she explains.

On how much parents should help, Muziribi says if a child does not understand something, a parent should help thereby becoming a resource in their learning process. “But when a child asks about something they do not understand, it does not mean a parent should do the entire homework. If a parent does the entire homework, then they are not being a resource to their children,” Muziribi reasons.

Namirembe Parents Primary School head teacher Grace Mukasa says her school gives homework to children on a daily basis, and this varies from class to class. The objective of homework, she says, is to help keep children remembering what they have learnt.

“Secondly, we want to keep them busy so that they do not spend all the time watching television,” she explains.

The parents role
Mukasa says the parents’ role is to ensure that a child does his/her homework, but not to sit with the child and give them answers to the questions. Although children require supervision to help them complete assignments, Mukasa notes: “If a parent gives a child answers, then they will not have helped them to learn.”

Another City Primary School teacher, who did not want to be named, said homework helps children to revise and refresh their minds on what they study. He, however, notes that many teachers have abused the essence of homework by overloading children. “Homework has today lost meaning. Many teachers give pupils a lot of work yet the essence of homework is to help them revise,” he points out.

The teacher says the parents role should be to ensure that children do and finish their homework instead of watching television all the time.

Frank Gashumba, a father of one, is okay with children doing homework but says they need some breathing space to refresh their minds. “It should not be too much work. You do not give a child homework for two weeks and you expect them to do it in one or two days,” the city businessman argues.

Gashumba says parents need to monitor their children while they are doing their homework. “For me, I do it in the study room away from the television and radio, and I make sure I also get something to read to occupy me. That way, you create an environment for studying and the child will only consult you for guidance where they are stuck.”

Gashumba suggests that parents should let their children do homework on their own so that they can realise their weaknesses after teachers have marked their work. “If a parent does not let their child do homework, that child will grow up with a mindset that everything should be done for them.”

Victoria Nanyonga, a mother of four, says sometimes a child comes home and the only thing he/she is thinking about is homework. “They cannot even help you do simple household chores in the name of homework,” a resident of Kasubi, laments.

Experts say it is important to consider how much homework is the right amount for children and it depends on the age and the skills of the child.

Joseph Musaalo, a counselling psychologist at Uganda Christian University Mukono, says overloading children with homework can result into stress. “My desire and prayer is for children to do all their work at school and then rest at home. That is the ideal,” Musaalo notes, adding that the time children are at home should be for learning social etiquette and moral behaviour from their parents.

But if homework is at all given, Musaalo says parents should guide children and also use the time for doing homework to bond with them.

Dr. Sam Goldstein, a US psychologist, notes that as children grow older, the amount of time engaged in homework increases in importance.

For teachers and administrators, he argues, homework is a cost effective way to provide additional instruction in practice. Through homework, he adds, a child develops personal skills such as time management gained through completing homework.

Homework also encourages students to study independently, and to learn how to use outside resources such as the library and other reference materials to do research, Goldstein adds.

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