Schools have an important role to play in helping learners to develop and manage their physical and emotional well-being. This, experts say, is the key to the personal development of students.
Dancan Musyoki Kimeu, vice-chancellor of the University of Rwanda, College of Education, said institutions should include personal development programs for students in their curriculum.
He says teachers tend to focus primarily on academic work, forgetting important aspects, like personal development, which can serve as a springboard for graduates looking to join the workforce.
Personal development is when students learn more about their interests and strive to achieve them. In this process, confidence is also built.
The importance of personal development
Kimeu says personal development also involves social interaction, developing a healthy mind, body and lifestyle, being able to identify one’s own strengths and weaknesses, and learning to develop skills.
âThe personal development of students is important because of the overall benefits, especially when it comes to higher education programs. We cannot speak of school development without including personal development. Universities are supposed to produce a well-prepared person who will adapt to the competitive market, âhe says.
He adds that this means that academic growth must be complemented by personal development, so that when a student completes a higher education course, they have what it takes to be competitive in the job market.
Since learners are still at a developmental stage, Dr Opiyo Andala PHD, Dean of the School of Education at Mount Kenya University, says it is possible to create good personalities.
Personal development also involves interaction. Photo file.
He thinks that it is easier for a student, especially at the beginning, to change his habits and his attitude if he is helped by his instructors and his parents.
âThe change in a child’s environment will help improve the nature of a learner. They will develop better personalities and eliminate negative behavioral traits, âhe says.
He adds that in doing so, students will also improve their communication skills, body language, boosting confidence, among others.
Jacky Irabagiza, counselor and matron at the School of Martyrs in Remera, explains that personality development helps students stand out.
She adds that learners should be encouraged to have âtheir own styleâ and not blindly copy their peers.
âTo achieve this, teachers must lead by example and nurture the unique abilities of each individual. By doing this, students will be better prepared to face the world, âshe says.
Opiyo believes that personal development promotes discipline and punctuality.
He says that students who aren’t disciplined have a hard time surviving in the long run, and that’s because they don’t believe in themselves, which is one of the main components of personal development.
âWhen personality development is encouraged, it teaches students to respect not only their teachers, but also their peers, which is vital when it comes to education,â Opiyo adds.
Alphonse Habimana, founder and director of Kigali Technical Secondary School in Kigali, says that students who are not supported in personal development will always have a bad attitude and will encounter problems in all situations in their life.
Additionally, he says, personal development helps instill positive qualities such as punctuality, flexibility, willingness to learn, friendly nature, desire to help others and many more.
âThese students will also be willing to share information with others and manage their time well, which in the long run will yield positive results in school and after school,â he said.
Habimana notes that personality development plays a vital role in improving students’ communication skills.
He says learners should master the art of expressing themselves fluently and with respect, as this will instill appreciation and respect in everything they do.
Tips for working on personal development
Irabagiza says teachers should help their students develop effective communication skills, as this is an interpersonal skill required in most areas of employment.
âWhen we talk about personal development, we are referring to things like ethics and principles. These things are rarely taught in the classroom and it is difficult for a student to achieve them when learning is not flexible, âshe says.
Kimeu says institutions should hold conferences and invite motivational speakers who can talk about these aspects. In addition, they should offer career guidance programs and pass them on to students.
For example, at the University of Rwanda, he says, there is a department that mainly focuses on the personal skills of students, regarding matters outside the regular academic program.
Lambert Mugisha, English teacher at St. Patrick Kicukiro, says that in order to help students in this area, they (the students) should âunderstand each otherâ in order to be helped. They need to know what they are capable of, because teachers only come to encourage them to do their best.
He says educators should arrange for students to meet successful people to inspire them and encourage students to be self-reliant.
Yvonne Teta Karera, Disciplinary teacher
For teachers to produce complete students, they don’t have to focus on grades alone, they have to touch on all aspects – academic and non-academic. In addition, students must be prepared to adapt to any change.
John Bosco Niyonkuru, instructor
To broaden the experience of students, they should be able to balance natural talent with professional needs. Parents and teachers shouldn’t just focus on their careers, because that’s not the only part of their life.
Joseph Jyamubanda, parent
Personal development goes hand in hand with extracurricular activities. I think schools should focus more on this. This is because they help a student to excel not academically but in life.
Mireille Gatesi, S5 student
All students are different and require a different approach. Teachers must therefore be prepared to go the extra mile to discover their learners and manage them properly without discrimination.