Durban - Having a child in matric can be stressful. The competition for university places and jobs engendered by a higher than normal pass rate, political agendas and the trepidation of sending a child away to study in another province is often uppermost in parents’ and pupils’ minds. These external forces increase the tension for matric pupils in their most important academic year.
There are many variables in the matric process: expected teacher strikes, textbook and resource scarcity or non-delivery, incompetent or indifferent teachers, family circumstances and crises, poor showing of marks due to downward adjustments during the marking process, the competence of markers. These are just some of the forces beyond the control of parents and pupils.
Like countless other parents and their offspring who have survived previous matric years, the key is knowledge and attitude. Here are a few tips that can help parents cope this year.
* Be understanding and flexible. Parents must realise that their child is “lost” to them during this year, engaged as he or she will be in tests, projects, assignments and fulfilling the requirements of oral and practical exams and continuous assessment tasks.
He (or she – adapt as applicable) will possibly want extra lessons in subjects needing attention. Private tutors get booked up early. Network now and make enquiries. Often this means putting family outings on hold during weekends or going without him.
* Help with time management. He is already stretched with the volume of work.
He may also have sports practices and training to attend. Some pupils are active in debating or cultural or social responsibility pursuits in their matric year.
If he can manage them, encourage balance. He needs relaxation time too so ensure that he gets this down time.
In some faculties like the Health Sciences and Medicine, a student must document and verify time spent in community service. This could occupy weekends and holiday time.
An astute parent will sift through his child’s responsibilities and commitments and help him decide on what is important.
* Deal with some of the paperwork. Parents might take on the responsibility of making applications to the universities on behalf of the child. Ascertain early the career path your child wishes to follow. Be realistic and take his subject package and abilities into account.
Speak to others who are working or studying in these careers already. If possible, allow your child to spend time in a career that he is interested in. Decide early, on the universities he will apply to. Each application fee is accompanied by a non-refundable administration fee so budget for these. Get the prospectus from universities or see online whether his choice of courses are offered.
* Be organised. Lots of parents make the mistake of applying to one university only and then find themselves in a panic if their child is refused admission. It is naive to expect automatic acceptance.
Spread the net wide. Keep a file for university applications, receipts and correspondence. Delineate it according to the various universities and note university deadlines. Be proactive and follow up on applications, either for university entrance or accommodation.
Lost applications or missed deadlines could result in your child being denied a place. Dealing with the universities or any institution of higher learning on your child’s behalf frees him up to concentrate on his studies.
* Make use of every resource. The competition is scary. Garner as many subject As or the highest marks possible to ensure the highest Admission Points Score (APS). Note that Life Orientation points are not counted in the APS.
The minimum points indicated by a faculty for admission is just that, absolute minimum. Faculties receive applications from students who score very high on their APS and will take the highest scores first, cutting off their intake way above the minimum required. So buy the study guides, make use of ex-teachers among friends and family, tutors, peer learning, group study sessions if he studies better with discussion, extra lessons offered at school – whatever it takes.
Every A symbol earned also translates to fee reductions at most state universities, so it is in his best interests to gain good marks.
* Ensure his emotional stability. The pressure on your child this year is immense. Make sure you tend to his basic needs, while not neglecting his emotional ones.
Shield him from family drama or crises, keeping his world stable so that he is not distracted. Be supportive, not critical.
Try not to add to his pressure by scrutinising every test and assignment result. Keep your eye on the bigger picture: the final exam. Be encouraging every step of the way. Work with the teachers and not against them.
Use them extensively for their expertise. At the end of this, you should have a clear conscience that you did everything in your power to assist your child.
This is a year of sacrifice for the family, the parent and the pupil writing matric.
The greatest gift you can give your son or daughter this year is your unconditional support. - Daily News
* Naidu is a teacher at Eden College, Durban and a freelance journalist. She has two children at university.