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By Marizka Coetzer

Journalist


Children inherently want to succeed in school; what happens when they are left behind?

Children that struggle at school, finding they are not able to comply with the expected outputs feel despondent and not good enough.


An expert warns that lack of support after keeping a child back to redo a school grade could lead to anxiety and aggression. Clinical psychologist at the University of the Western Cape Dr Erica Munnik said this was because it could be perceived as a failing and not being good enough. “A child that struggles at school and who is not able to comply with the expected outputs is already feeling despondent and not good enough because of not being able to comply with what was expected of them under pressure. “Cognitive or academic challenges are generally accompanied by emotional…

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An expert warns that lack of support after keeping a child back to redo a school grade could lead to anxiety and aggression.

Clinical psychologist at the University of the Western Cape Dr Erica Munnik said this was because it could be perceived as a failing and not being good enough.

“A child that struggles at school and who is not able to comply with the expected outputs is already feeling despondent and not good enough because of not being able to comply with what was expected of them under pressure.

“Cognitive or academic challenges are generally accompanied by emotional reactions such as shame, guilt, sadness, anxiety or aggression, or behavioural relations such as oppositional behaviour,” she said.

Munnik said children inherently wanted to succeed in school. She said that academic curriculums were developed in a way that requires children to perform adequately to specific age-appropriate standards. “They also have to be able to adjust to school life and the demands that school places on them emotionally and socially.

“Cognitive development goes hand in hand with emotional development, such as the ability to regulate emotions appropriately and to have a positive sense of self,” she said.

Munnik said a decision to keep a child back to repeat a year was made when the child couldn’t conform to the expected outputs of the specific grade.

“This is usually done when a child is not able to keep up with the academic demands, or if the child is struggling with identified developmental or neurological delays, or if trauma or life experiences affected the child physically, emotionally or socially in such a way that it will be very difficult for them to reach the expected outputs as required in the next grade,” she said.

Munnik said failing posed a challenge for most children who had formed solid friendships and were used to the peer group that they were in.

“They want to do well to feel a sense of personal accomplishment. Children also want positive feedback from their caretakers, teachers and peers.

If the child failed the grade there is a specific reason for it,” she said. Munnik said with the support of the caretakers and teachers, a child who was repeating a grade would be able to adjust and utilise the opportunity to acquire the basic skills needed to advance to the next grade.

“It is my experience that children adjust better if caretakers can contain and assist with the transition,” she said. Munnik added that children were resilient and were able to adjust to changes.

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