Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Homework? They'd be better off playing

A Touch Of Nokoko by Kofi Akumanyi

Homework, the time-tested school exercise slot for millions of school children is about to be declared obsolete if some educational authorities have their way. The reason? It is now regarded as an unwelcome daily dose of overtime for children already overburdened with difficult school work.

For starters Spanish youngsters would not have any until they are fourteen and lucky American kids can tune into a T.V. programme for help with their homework.

Recently, the Socialist Spanish government education minister, Senor Jose Maria Maravall abolished homework for all kids between six and fourteen arguing that when they get home children should have time to play, and that it would actually improve education standards.

In Los Angeles school children can tune into Homework Hotline - a T.V. programme on which a team of teachers help them find the right answers to homework questions.

Arguments for and against homework have rumbled on for ages and fortunately those who want to destroy the little education left have failed until now. I mean, I can remember my school days many years ago in a little village school in Ghana where the Pupil Teacher (as untrained teachers were called) struggling to understand the lesson himself, always ended up loading up the class with loads of homework in all the subjects - Arithmetics, English, Geography, and Civics. (remember Civics?)

But most of us who went through this gruelling routine would readily, agree that we would not be where we are now (wherever it is) if we had not taken our homework seriously. I believe that it was all the time a mutual educational process. The pupil teachers and the children learnt from one another, and what a jolly good time that we had with the ubiquitous multiplication table routine!

Thinking about the intimate relationship that we children had with our teachers and the numerous tricks that we played to avoid doing our homework, I asked myself whether the all important homework should be scrapped so that children can have more time to play. It took me exactly one second to come to the irreversible conclusion that it would be the death of education if it happened.

As always I sought an interview, this time with the Spanish Educational Minister who has cancelled homework for children but could not get him to speak to me immediately. After a few more inter-continental calls to the Ministry of Education in Lisbon I finally got him at home.

"Am I speaking to the Honourable Senor Jose Maria Maravall?"

"Si ... Si... what can I do for you?"

"It's about the new revolutionary step that your socialist government. ." I said.

"What did you say?... I can't hear you... Would you speak up?"

"I would like to talk to you about the stoppage of homework for school children which has raised a discussion in the media in the U.K...."

"Oh that! Well, the Spanish government is determined to set the trend for a world revolution..." he said (a loud crash in the background).

"What's that?" I asked.

"That's the sound of the children playing after school. What a happy bunch they look instead of sweating behind homework books."

"Would you be surprised to know that many educationalists disagree with you?"

"I don't really know but is that relevant?"

"Of course it is. You see socialism as an ideology places people first before material wealth."

"I still don't see the connection between that and abolition of homework," I said.

"You won't until you consider the basic issue of dialectical materialism, the central theme of Karl Marx and Engels' work."

"I'm totally lost. . ."

"That's right. You were probably overloaded with homework as a child. You see the world is a hard place and children should be given enough time to play before they are pitched against the sharks to make a living."

"Good reasoning except that one would have thought that it would be appropriate first to inculcate the regime of hard work into the children," I pointed out.

"You're right but we reckon that if Marx and Engels had had time to play a lot when they were children, they probably would have done a better job," he said, chuckling at the other end of the receiver.

"In the capitalist societies, it is reported that they've found a way around the problem with the introduction of a Television phone-in to help children do their homework. How does that grab you, minister?"

It's all electronic crap that still taxes the brain, children need complete relaxation after school. In fact plans are in the pipeline to extend the 'no homework rule' to adults."

"How's that?"

"We are closely monitoring the current exercise for kids under 16 and depending on its success, we would ban overtime work for all adults in Spain," the minister informed me

"I fail to see how that would help a country like Spain which needs to raise productivity and thereby improve the standard of living of the people."

"Consistency, my friend, consistency. Don't forget that all work and no play, they say, makes Juan a dull boy."

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