Children love school holidays. For parents, well, it is a catch 22 situation. Beating boredom and entertaining children during the school holidays is hurting the budgets of many parents
Betty Muindi @BettyMuindi
The December holidays have just began, and while school-going children are expected to be home, it is a busy morning at Neema Education Centre. It runs a school holiday programme for children of all ages providing meals and activities at a fee.
As youngsters run playfully into the school assembly point, their parents saunter out, some visibly relieved. Just one week into the 10-week school holidays, one beleaguered mother says her seven-year-old son has already asked 10 times to go for ballet training.
While parents have an opportunity to spend some quality time to bond with their children and make it memorable, beating boredom and entertaining children during school holidays, it turns out, is hurting the budgets of many families.
Even if they are planning a ‘staycation’, the cost is a big source of stress. It is a never-ending juggling act of making sure the children have enough holiday fun without the costs spiraling out of control.
Whether it is the price of childcare, weekends out, new toys, entertainment or food, many parents are feeling the pinch on their hip pocket.
A spot check by Fusion reveals children-based holiday programmes are taking advantage of the holidays to fork out thousands of shillings out of parents. The top child-friendly expense is eating out followed by theme parks and zoo visits.
Well-off parents are filling in the gap left by school by keeping their children stimulated with privately organised camps, trips to Coast or abroad, private tuition, you name it.
While poorer families are finding the holidays a financial strain. Affordable school holidays seem to get filled up too quickly and in some instances, high demand for holiday camps are forcing facilitators to hike charges. At home, it is not any easier, all of a sudden, food budgets have swollen two or three-folds
Among the available options for children this holiday include Kenya School of Flying, a Professional Flight training School based at Wilson Airport that is providing a 14-day personalised training for high school students from November 27 to December 11, at their Ukunda base in Mombasa. The course, which runs every school holiday including April and August, costs Sh137,600.
The school’s marketing executive Kevin Ririani says the aviation holiday camp offers both Private Pilot Licence flying as well as ground school training. The girl course is done separately from the boys and other courses are incorporated with the ground school.
“In addition, we also do mentorship on leadership for the girl-child and strengthening their base in Aviation Technology. The students are also assured of graduating with excellent flying skills for their goals, he says.
Royal Montessori School, Muthaiga is also offering a five-day children’s camp starting next week on Monday to Friday known as November Camp for children between four and 14 years.
At Sh3,500 children between four to eight years will be kept busy with personal management, personal values, creative play and etiquette training while nine to 14-year-olds are set to be equipped with personal management, values, career development, problem solving, Internet use and public speaking skills.
Joan Gathungu, who runs the programme, says children are provided with a conducive environment to learn and play. “We are open from 8.30pm to 3.30pm and transport arrangements can be organised with parents if their children are not being dropped off. We serve all parts of Nairobi,” she says.
At Wadi Degla Club located in the leafy suburbs of Runda, they are offering a four weeks summer camp where children will learn new skills in arts and crafts, education, sports and music.
At Kenya Institute of Martial Arts, Cleophas Chalicha is conducting tae-kwo-ndo for three-year-olds and above. A parent pays Sh300 per session of two hours in the morning and afternoon
But having a great time doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag as explains Yvonne Ndungwa, a mother of two, Zarya, five and Ziah one. Apart from the house budget, she has found ways of cutting the cost of entertainment for her daughter.
She has everyday of the holiday planned out. Starting November, 12 up until the end of the holiday, she has lined up a number of programmes that she intends to enrol her child into, some of which will not cost her a dime.
“I plan to enrol my daughter to a Vocational Bible Study conducted at Kitengela International Christian Centre where I also will be volunteering,” she says. Thereafter, for another week, the church will be training the children on how to do bead work.
The programmes are free of charge. She also has skating, which she will pay Sh300 per day for alternating day as well as Ballet dancing, voice recording, piano and guitar lessons lined up her daughter at Maasai Discovery in Kitengela, which she will pay Sh500 per session.
At home, she keeps Zarya busy by letting her assist with home chores such as clearing the table, organising her toys as well as letting her take part in cooking and washing.
An events planner by profession, Yvonne tells parents that they can avoid putting financial strain on themselves and still ensure their children have an action-packed holiday.
In the past many parents opted to take their children to the countryside to visit their grandparents and relatives over the school holidays. By spending time in shags, parents believed that their children would learn and understand their culture better, know their history and get to see life from a different perspective.
Further, there was so much to do in the countryside as they would feed animals, farm and do many other things. While some still do that today, many modern parents would rather take their children to all holiday destinations in the country save for their upcountry homes.They think taking their children to their rural home is shady and unnecessary.