, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 13 – Parenting is a full-time task. Catering to your child’s every need as generously as possible; and being watchful to make sure only good things are absorbed by the young ones is nothing short of a miracle.
Often, to provide the children with what they need as best they can, parents work several jobs and/or put in long hours, so that the professionalism pays off in terms of cash and expertise.
Even for average schools in Kenya, fees keep rising every year in line with inflationary pressures, forcing parents to work even harder and miss out on quality time with their children at home.
Diana Njoroge, 35, has two sons. She is studying for a college degree to improve her pay grade and her chances in future. With an eight-hour job, classes every Saturday, the only day she has to balance the rest of her life is on Sunday. Is that enough?
“It’s never enough. There’s not enough time to do everything you want to do. But I realise it’s important to guide the kids and it has to be done. That’s why I opted for school on Saturdays only, so I can help them with their homework during the week.”
But that is not the only challenge. Diana’s children are learning things that she never learnt in school, and unless she joins her kids in their class, she will never be able to really guide them through some of their homework.
“You see, we never did sounds, as the kids are doing now. We used to have alphabets. So when the kid comes home saying ‘ah for apple’, and we said ‘ay’, you can’t really provide the guidance you would like. The teachers say don’t use alphabets because it will confuse the children,” she tells Capital News.
Alice Kamau, 47, agrees. She tries to learn a bit faster than her son, or enlist the help of a teacher, to ensure that he hasn’t missed out anything in school. To her though, it’s all about expertise.
“Why should my son fail Kiswahili when the aunt is a teacher in that? So when he closes school, he will go for tuition, and I’ll pay.”
Though she monitors his progress, expert Nadia Petrossi who is the Manager of Parental Engagement at Dubai-based GEMS education feels that most parents are missing the point.
“There’s something magic about the influence your father/mother has on you. When your parents say good job, you feel like a star. Your teacher says it and you feel great, but when your parents do it, there’s something powerful there,” she says. “There’s so much research that proves there’s a relationship there that’s powerful.”
She says parents should take this relationship and apply it to what their children are learning so that they do better.
“Let me break it down. It’s in three parts. Talk, share and encourage. Talk about what they are doing in school, share it by asking them to show you and encourage them by saying ‘good!’”
Petrossi says these simple examples will reinforce the education of the children.
“It’s not about English, or how many skills they have in science, it’s about encouraging the child to share what they learned with you.”
In high school, if the subject is more advanced than what the parent can understand, there is no need to be embarrassed, she says.
This method is proving to work miracles in the GEMS schools, which span across 11 countries in the world, and very soon in Kenya.
Petrossi says the uptake of the parental engagement in their schools has been phenomenal. She says the most statistical proof that it raises the levels of education was via research carried out in the US in 2007, with two groups – one group that was monitored and one group that didn’t.
“We haven’t done research on our own systems, aside from feedback given to us from the parents and the students.”
Richard Forbes, GEMS education communication director says their systems were developed using research findings conducted in the past.
Petrossi highlights the elementary school stages as most critical for creating this bond, of talking, sharing and encouraging.
“What happens as the child grows older is that the relationship shifts slightly, but you still talk about things, just different things… Even when you’re so busy working, when you do have the time, how do you choose to spend it? Is it on reality TV or in reinforcing your children’s education?”
There is no fool proof system of how to work with your school kids, however Petrossi is convinced that parental involvement not only removes the guilt but improves the children’s education.