"I hate you for sending me to boarding school"

A man, angry at his parents for sending him to boarding school, wrote the following  letter to a Guardian Newspaper Agony aunt, “…I held a grudge against my parents over this(sending the writer to boarding school), and in an act of rebellion I left school, stopped their financial support and never returned "home."… I've missed out on some prime dad-son years. When I see my family I feel like a bystander. I'm not fitted into the schedule; there is always something more important. I don't get treated as an adult or friend. I just want to make up for the years lost, for us to get to know each other, but he(his father) blocks all emotions, which makes us both very anxious when we are together – it feels like mutual guilt.”

I’m sure that, if the parents of this man knew in advance how boarding school would adversely affect their child, they would have not have sent him there.  Reading this letter left me wondering if delegating the parenting role to complete strangers is the right thing to do.

I grew up at a time when it was fashionable to send your child to boarding school. Many young people in my extended family actually begged their parents to send them away.  

Although I did enjoy some aspects of boarding school I am not sure I would send my child away. Unlike the writer of the above letter, I harbour no resentment towards my parents for sending me there. What seemed so natural to me back then now seems unnatural and odd. Why would I trust the unsupervised care of my child to complete strangers? Why should I give someone else the power to mould my child’s way of thinking? No ways.

I can understand why a child can end up feeling resentful at parents for sending him or her to boarding school. It’s is easy for the child to feel ripped away from familiar surroundings to be left at the mercy of an institution.

What I found difficult about my 5 years in boarding school was the systematic bullying, some of which was regarded as ‘normal’ by the school authorities. Some of the teachers also bullied the students and these cases went largely unreported. Even if you reported it to parents- some of them would see the bullying as part of boarding school life.

While in boarding school I missed my parents badly. I feel like I lost out on many of the life skills that I could have gained from my parents. I’ve also seen friends and family who were sent to boarding school who later found it particularly difficult to reconnect with their parents because of the time spent apart from them during the formative years.

Responding to the above mentioned letter Tristan from Missouri commented: “Why have children if you send them off to be taken care of by another? If this is the case, why do you not just "rent" a child for a day. How barbaric indeed!

Matilda, from Australia wrote : “As a mother I would miss my children terribly, I need to be there to tuck them in every night and see them and share their life everyday. I can't imagine sending them away to school at such a young age.

However, Brightside, who is in favour of boarding schools  made the following comments on Parent24: “I was in boarding school for my high school career and I can say that I wouldn't have had half the opportunities to be involved, make friends and learn about life if I had been a day scholar. There are some huge misconceptions about boarding school that can only be cleared up if parents go and investigate for themselves. They'll see that these aren't concentration camps; they're merely a facility to make attending a good school and participating in extra mural activities easier for kids and parents.

In my view, sending a child to boarding school should be a very last option. Parenting, after all, is about being there every day.

Would you send your children to boarding school?

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

Read more by Sipho Yanano

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