On ‘Bunking’ School

Dear Parent

Is your child a chronic leave taker? If yes, are you keeping track of the days missed and reasons for this absence? How does your child catch up on skills and concepts taught in class on these days of absence? Is there a pile-up of missed lessons? Isn’t it stressful trying to catch up on the backlog? Or are you just writing off the loss? The answers to these questions are directly connected with your child’s welfare.

I write this because every day, I see a considerable number of students marked absent on the school rolls. The numbers are usually higher at the beginning and end of term. but why are these students absent? Is every reason for absence valid? Let’s take a look at the facts.

The five-hour school day allows sufficient time for daily recreation. There are nearly twenty government holidays, several Saturdays off, and innumerable Sundays within term time. In addition, the school year includes a summer and a Diwali vacation, each averaging a month. So, with sufficient time available for short or long family outings and get-togethers, please put in some effort and planning to make these breaks coincide with school holidays.

In a year of 365 days, we get approximately 200 working days at best. Therefore, when some parents go on unscheduled and extended vacations during the busy school term, they create serious problems for their children. It isn’t fair that the decision to remain absent is made by parents, when the student is the one to bear the consequences of missing classes. Even if your child is quick to catch up, it isn’t always possible to make up for every practice, revision and doubt-clearing sessions missed.

Very few unscheduled breaks are due to an illness or a death in the family, which are the only valid reasons for missing school within term time. Some parents may disagree with me on the importance or unavoidability of taking leave during term, but all will agree that their child has to work extra hard to catch up with lessons missed. Long or repeated absence is especially a handicap when the student has to score well in exams.

Paradoxically, some parents worry about loss of school time only when their child is recovering from a serious ailment like a fracture or chicken pox. Yet, rest, sleep, special diet, timely medications and tender loving care at home are invaluable for your child’s complete recovery after a stressful illness. Don’t deprive them of this birthright. That’s why school allows a 10% relaxation on attendance for illness. Don’t send your child to school before a complete recovery only to spend your day worrying about how she’s coping. When doubtful about your child’s health, allow a day’s rest at home.

Truancy however, has a very negative impact on learner attitude, discipline and performance, and when parents encourage it, then it becomes more serious. At this point, if you, as a parent, are offended by my plain speaking, then perhaps, you’re finally thinking seriously about long or frequent absence, loss of valuable learning time and the consequent burden on your child.  Good!  It’s time you joined me in doing so. This communication in a meaningful and enduring Learning Partnership reminds you that school rules ensuring regular attendance throughout the term are in the interest of your child’s overall welfare.

Sanjukta Sivakumar







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