Lifestyle Verve

How to keep your child safe in boarding schools

Written by Ade

Parents need to devise special and unique ways to keep their children safe in boarding school

Felicia Coker

It is so alarming the rate disturbing news of criminal acts in boarding schools are uploaded in the news media. Parents and other stakeholders are becoming alarmed with many of them, who are excited about sending their children to boarding schools, constantly worrying about the safety and security of their children while away from them at school.

Every parent expects his/her child to learn in a safe and secured environment without the constant worry about the child’s welfare and how secure is the school environment against bullying, fights, thefts, and or sexual misconduct.

Safety and security play a crucial role in the learning environment and the academic success of the child, as no child can learn well in an environment of fear, violence and anti-social behaviour.

Though more schools are beginning to pay closer attention to safety and security in the school environment, especially in boarding schools, parents need to devise complementary methods of keeping their children safe and secure while at boarding schools.

This preventative approach will ensure that your child is safe while giving you peace of mind

The Observers Life talked to some security experts, psychologists and teachers on this issue. Here are some of their tips on how to help your child enjoy boarding school and be safe:

  1. Help your child prepare for boarding school:  the first step is adequately preparing your child for the experience of the boarding school. Let him/her know what to expect, living in hostels with other children from similar or different backgrounds, studying and engaging in some extra-curricular activities together. Let him/her know the shocks, homesickness, challenges of the new environment as well as the fun and opportunities there-of. Listen to their fears and concerns and talk through how these can be overcome.
  2.  Teach your child to be more independent:  help the child to improve on social skills and thinking facilities that will increase his/her independence, self-reliance and responsibility. This will help the child cope well why away from home at school. Encourage the child and teach him/her to mature quickly in both his/her academic and personal lives, including being independent, taking responsibilities, and striking a balance between his/her academic and personal life and be focused to quickly understand and recognise a danger lurking around the corner, especially pretending as friendly acts.
  3. Set up an effective and regular communications system: while the child is away at school, you should have a way of communicating with him/her. Also, while at home constantly talk to your child about how he/she is feeling about his/her experience, including positive and negative ones in school. Encourage your child to talk about his/her new surroundings, classmates and school culture. Learn about his/her concern, talk them through these concerns and help them straighten them up. When at school, make plans for keeping regularly in contact with a schedule of communication. Keep to this schedule and sometimes add the surprise ones to the schedule. But be careful not to make it an excessive exercise.
  4. Get to know the school and its environment before your child is enrolled: you can do this by paying visits to the school on your own and with your child before the opening day or your child’s first day in boarding school. You can do this during an admission event. The purpose is to familiarize yourselves with the school’s general environment, staff and other students and their parents. Check the hostels and other facilities with security and safety at your consciousness; meet and talk with teachers and hostels’ staff, and other students and parents to get a feel of the school’s culture and environment.
  5. Pay visits to your child in school: these should include parents’ opening days, other special events for parents and family members, and other unofficial visits. On such visits try and notice your child’s demeanours and comfortability. 
  6. Stay in touch with the school. Constantly talk to his/her teachers, hostel parents, counsellors and school administrators. Visit the school’s social media pages: Facebook and other pages at least twice a week. Read school’s newsletter and WhatsApp platform messages. React to happenings, events and messages that help keep you informed about school and its students.
  7. Pay active role in the Parents-Teachers Association (PTA): learn to work with other parents to keep your child safe. You all need to support each other and work together to improve the safety and security of your children. Reach out and be friendly to other parents.  
  8. Have a reliable system to track your child’s. He/she must be under surveillance each day. Use a hostel parent if such a system is not in place in the school. Pick a reliable person for this role who will be able to monitor your child and know what is happening to him/her every day. Your child must also be comfortable in dealing with this adult.
  9. Teach your child to take care of his/her health: talk to the child on the need to eat well, stay active, sleep appropriately balancing his/her time and report any health issue promptly to the appropriate quarter as well as informing you on your regular visits or calls.
  10. The Covid-19 pandemic is still around the corner: teach your child the various precautions and protocols for the pandemic. Also, be aware of the school’s protocols for this as well as its policy on how to handle emergencies. Let your child also be aware of these. Educate and prepare your child on this issue: practice handwashing, and proper mask-wearing. Make available enough face masks, hand sanitiser and other materials he/she might need to avoid sharing items with other students. Do not hesitate to bring the child home if there is an outbreak or exposure to any virus.    
  11. Use technology for assistance: this is a modern world, so turn to technology to help keep your child safe and secured. Provide your child with devices that keep him/her safe by monitoring their social media and internet use, current physical location, and other usages, especially if allowed by the school. Monitor your child cellphones and other devices to ensure he/she is on the right track. These should include setting the ground rules for using the cellphone and Internet and check-in in regularly.

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