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Attention deficit disorder - a serious hurdle in our schools

The problem of attention deficit disorder (ADD) is becoming increasingly common in our schools, and it often goes unnoticed because it is not easy to identify.

Learners with ADD are quite deceptive because they can sit still and appear to be paying attention when they are actually mentally absent from class. One of the quickest warning signs is usually avoidance of participation during class discussions, or the tendency to act as if they are coming out of a deep dream when you directly engage them in verbal discussions.

The other thing that should make parents suspicious that their child could have ADD is when most teachers complain that he or she is disorganised and does not show interest in school work. It is however, always advisable to take the child for further psychological assessments before concluding that a child has ADD.

While some researchers describe attention deficit disorder as inherited, others believe that our social and emotional environments play a major role in both the cause of and cure for this disorder. I relate more with the latter group without dismissing the possibility of inheritance.

Below are some of the things that evidently promote attention deficit disorder in our schools (not in any particular order):


Poor diet

Our learners are among the top consumers of junk food in our communities. They start arriving at school as early as six in the morning. That is the time when they start consuming snacks with all sorts of artificial flavourants and preservatives. Most of these snacks are packaged without any information on the ingredients, which means they are not even aware of what they are consuming. Gone are the days when parents used to make sure children ate soft porridge, bread and tea before they left for school.

A lot has been said on television, radio and even at school about the dangers of consuming food high in additives such as MSG, Aspartame and a whole lot of other harmful ingredients, but that has not improved the situation significantly. Public schools provide healthy meals at tea time and lunch break for free but the majority of learners still prefer to harm their brains with junk food.

Research shows that harmful additives commonly found in junk food, are damaging to the brain as they lower the brain’s capacity to function efficiently. What this means is that a good number of learners who consistently consume junk food develop poorer concentration spans with time. Harmful

food additives are silent brain killers.


Substance abuse

Just like poor diet, substance abuse is also a major problem in schools. The only difference is that substance consumption is done in secrecy, even though the smell of marijuana knows no boundaries. Substances are also said to lower the brain’s capacity to function optimally. This however, does not mean all learners with ADD consume illegal substances.

Overstimulation from television and social media Sedentary lifestyles are still a problem among learners. When they are much younger, they tend to develop addiction for cartoon networks and as they become older social media takes over, especially Facebook. Some of our teenage learners get so addicted to Facebook to the extent of sneaking their cellphones in schools so that they can use Facebook throughout the day, even when they should be concentrating in class. Their attention is easily diverted to Facebook, because it is said to have “interesting gossip”.

By seven o’clock, when school starts, learners’ brains would be overfed with junk food and unnecessary information from social media, putting them in a position where they are not in the right frame of mind to learn.



Children from troubled families often have poor concentration levels as they often have a lot to worry about.  


Spiritual confusion

We live in an era where people want to pressurise God to give them instant gratification. I have occasionally come across learners who believe that they can suddenly perform exceptionally well just because a prophet promised them good grades as a reward for their parents’ loyalty in tithing. It can be a challenge to reach out to a learner who would physically come to class and mentally escape to worship with a prophet who has promised them outstanding grades, solely based on how much they contribute at church.

In schools we always forecast students’ grades, based on their previous performance on standardised tests and this does not mean that we do not believe in the God. In fact, He has clearly stipulated in the holy book that we will harvest what we sow. He encourages hard work and strategic planning.  attention deficit disorder is not only restricted to lesson time, but it is also a problem during examination time, as it can hinder candidates from answering all the examination questions.

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