By Lucy Rweyemamu
She has four children who each go to different schools and was receiving lots of Whatsapp messages from teachers on assignments she can guide her children through.
“What am I supposed to do with all this information, most of which I cannot understand? They should lower their expectations, as a parent I cannot do all this!” she exclaimed. She continued to rant saying that homeschooling is breaking her mentally and emotionally, and she’s at her wits end.
My cousin’s protest made me ponder on what is lacking in our education system. It also made me revalue the worth and importance of teachers, not only at national level but also at community level, as the amount of work they have to put in and the impact they make on our children’s learning is immense.
It is therefore disheartening to find that teachers are among the most underpaid workers, not only in Tanzania but also in most African countries.
In Tanzania, there is minimal research on parental involvement in children’s education. The education system focuses on the school environment as the key source of learning and little attention is paid to continued learning at home.
Possible contributing factors to low parental involvement in education include poverty, uneducated parents, limited time and resources of parents and teachers, distance from home to school, lack of awareness of parents towards their involvement, poor attitude, lack of parent-teacher partnerships, absence of open relationships between home and school and other cultural factors.
The Aga Khan University in Tanzania conducted a study known as - Strengthening Teaching and Raising Achievement in Pre-primary and Primary Schools (STRAPPS) in Newala District.
The project followed a holistic approach involving schools, communities, teachers and government officials working together to positively impact education. Evidence from the study showed that parental involvement improves student learning which means good grades, improved social skills and behaviour as well as parental confidence in the children’s education.
With such evidence, it is imperative for parents to be fully involved in their children’s learning. Schools also need to promote parental involvement by treating all parents equally and seeing them as partners rather than adversaries.
Government and education stakeholders need to invest in raised awareness on parental involvement in education. There also needs to development of a policy which outlines specific roles that parents or caregivers must fulfill while the government ensures parents are well sensitized about their roles.
Integration of technology in learning is also key with need for improved access to internet services in schools and homes. In such times of crisis like we’re facing now, mobile applications can be a useful and innovative tool to enhance learning. These are add-on materials to books which are essential to growing a child’s mind.
Effective parental involvement is not only for individual learners but also for future generations. If we want to make progress in educational attainment as a nation, then all players should work together to ensure our learners receive the best.
The author is a Senior Manager at the Institute for Educational Development, Aga Khan University.