Parental involvement in a child’s education is as important as water is to all the living things.

2014-07-28 10:38

It is hard to isolate parents and the community where our learners originate from a child’s education as even the research shows that parental involvement improves the overall performance and behaviour of a child. If they do not feature anywhere in the child’s education, we brace ourselves for a disaster that outstrips even the 1976 Soweto uprising in South Africa and thus compromise the successful creation of empowering and sustainable learning environments. These are one of the key stakeholders in education and if they are fragmented so will be the child’s academic performance at school. I am always inspired by stories of learners who attribute their academic triumph to their parents’ and community’s continued support in their studies and they attest precisely to the fact that parental and community involvement in education are as significant as all other stakeholders in education.

South African parents are known for their passive roles in their children’s education and in support of this statement can be the 2012 textbooks saga in Limpopo. I do not remember seeing on television or hearing on radio any parents lodging a complaint to the Department of Basic Education or the Constitutional Court on why textbooks were not delivered on time. The only pictures that are vivid in my mind are those of the civil organisations such as Equal Education. But one may contend that maybe our parents are not as active in their children’s education owing to the fact that schools do not create the necessary spaces in which parents can be fully active members. But this reason is not compelling as we expect parents to take the initiative; the governing body meetings should not be the only time parents are present at the school. Parents should not only be present at the school when a child has failed the grade or when a child is caught with drugs—it should be a culture.

It is disheartening to see a tavern in our townships playing the music loud even when the lessons in the classrooms are progressing. It is disconcerting to hear of stories of community members who rob the school of its assets and sell them for peanuts. This to me and everyone else with interest in education is indicative of the fact that education is no longer a communal but rather an individual pursuit. I am sure if parents were playing an active role in the children’s education there wouldn’t be alarming rates of disciplinary problems in our schools because teachers and parents will collaborate to think of creative ways of controlling this distasteful behaviour by learners. I am sure if most of our parents were active in their children’s education there will be few learners who come to school with incomplete home-works or assignments. Yes, there are social pathologies such as child-headed families, HIV epidemic and poverty that one may blame this parental passiveness to in South Africa and these are serious issues but what happened to the saying that it takes a village to raise a child?

As a township boy, I do not remember seeing my parents coming to watch me play soccer or participate in other extra-curricular activities. Had they done so I am sure I would have progressed to a level unimaginable. The same can be said about parents of other learners in our schools who do not seem to play an active role in our education.

Bring in expert parents in your classrooms.

Teachers should acknowledge the fact that they do not master everything and this is where we can invite one parent who is the expert in the topic that a teacher is not comfortable with to present a lesson. This way parents feel acknowledged and appreciated. Parents who are experts in decorating can come to the classrooms to help us with the classroom decoration. Parents who are experts in curriculum planning can help the teacher and the school management with how to intensify the school’s academic programs; even though the department prescribes what should be taught at schools it does not prescribe how it should be taught.

Parents who know the savvies of finances can train the school management team in the areas of financial planning and management in order to sustain the school’s financial position. They can even help the school think of creative ways through which it can generate extra income for when the limited funds from the government try out. These are some of the ways that parents in our schools can play active roles for their children’s better future.

Involve parents in the “Letsemas”

In black communities we have what we call “Letsema” which is where all community members come together to help one another. In the school where I was employed as the substitute teacher, Lekhulong Secondary, our learners’ parents were invited to clean the school yards as well as premises and this initiative became so successful that most parents felt they could continue to work until cows came back. It is in initiatives such as this that parents can be active participants in the children’s’ education other than in the classrooms. The only way we can inculcate the spirit of pride in our schools is if parents and communities at large played active roles in these institutions that carry hopes of our great nation.

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