Parenting: How you can get more involved in your child’s school life?

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Students listen to a teacher in class. Parent's involvement in the child's activities at school boosts self-esteem and overall academic achievement. (Photos by Lydia Atieno)

Getting involved in your child’s school life is important for any parent who is committed to raising an all-round child. But some parents find it hard to play this noble role, chiefly because they don’t know how to go about it.

Joyce Umutoniwase, a parent from Kicukiro, a Kigali suburb, says she had a problem with her son, who is now in senior two, because he used to perform poorly in science subjects in his previous school.

She says after they moved him to a new school, he started improving and he is doing much better. Umutoniwase’s concern was how she could get in touch with teachers to find out more about what she could do to support his son in his academics. She only got a chance to do so when it was parents’ visitation day. For her that was not enough as she needed to be updated on anything that called for her help so that her son maintains good grades.

According to education experts, there are many ways parents can get involved in their children’s school activities. The most important requirement, they say, is for the parents to be committed and available for their children.

For example, some schools have overcome this hurdle by having software that link students, parents and teachers. According to schools that have this technology, this saves time for parents as they don’t have to come to school physically, but instead get updates and can make follow-ups on their children using their smart phones.

For instance, at Riviera High School, last year they adopted a system known as ‘Academic Bridge’, which helps update parents about their children’s school activities from wherever they are.

Fred Atinga, the deputy principal-academics at the School, says such software enhances security and safety of the child.

He explains that every student has an account where parents can access the child’s academic assessment and information on their discipline, among others. This, according to Atinga, enables parents to evaluate the school’s commitment to assessment and discipline.

He says the advantage of such software is that parents are able to get involved, participate and even follow up on their children’s academics without necessarily making trips or calls to the school.

Other strategies

According to Jatin Uppadhyay, the proprietor of Colours Club and ambassador of Inter Nations Kigali Community, the best strategy a parent can adopt is to be in touch with teachers at school, most importantly the class teacher and the one in charge of discipline.

“This is important because the class teacher is the one who can give a clear assessment to the parent on how their child is fairing. On the other hand, the disciplinary teacher is able to comment on the conduct and advise on how the parent can be of help,” he says.

Uppadhyay notes that this is important because these two areas are crucial when it comes to the achievement of any child at school.

Faustin Mutambazi, the chief executive officer of Education Consultancy Bureau in Remera, Kigali, thinks that one of the best starting points for getting involved is through parent-teacher conferencing or open house.

He says this should be scheduled in each school, and it’s a great opportunity for parents to get feedback from their children and teachers.

For John Nzayisenge, the director, Good Harvest School in Kigali, getting involved in other activities apart from just class work is also essential.

For example, he says at their school, they organise debates and invite parents to attend.

Nzayisenge adds that schools can come up with periodic reporting, where parents are invited to come and share with learners and teachers whatever is happening.

As a way of encouraging students, he says, they involve the parents in awarding the best perfomers, pointing out that if a child is recognised in the presence of their parents, it motivates parents to continue supporting such children in their academics.

Paul Swagga, a tutor at Akilah Institute for Women in Kibagabaga, Kigali, believes that parents should stay involved in their children’s activities by visiting schools regularly to check on the progress of their children.

“They should interface with class teachers to get a clear understanding of their children’s participation in class and co-curricular activities,” he says.

For all this to happen, Peter Gasinzigwa, who heads the examination items bank at Rwanda Education Board (REB), says communication is the key, but again it all starts with the teachers.

“Teachers need to have guided comments, which are understandable to both parents and learners. Whenever they need a parent for some reasons they need to point out exactly what’s needed to the parent,” he says.

This, Gasinzigwa says, gives a parent a clear picture of what and why they are being needed or why their presence at school is important. But for those parents, who find excuses not to follow up on their children’s activities whenever they are needed, it becomes hard to do so.

He adds that most of the time teachers don’t specify what they want or why they need to talk to a parent, the reason some parents choose to ignore some issues that might be vital.

Gasinzigwa says it is important for parents to have contacts of teachers whom they know are close to their children.

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Students in class; Teachers should guide students on what to revise.

Why it’s important

According to US-based online portal Education.com which empowers parents and teachers to help their children build essential skills and excel, parents’ involvement in their children’s activities helps children achieve more regardless of their background or parents education level.

The study further points out that the learners generally achieve better grades and have better self-esteem, self discipline and also show higher aspirations and motivation towards school, whenever parents get involved in their school activities.

Swagga notes that parents’ involvement in their children’s school activities motivates learners to work hard when they realise that their parents have interest in monitoring their progress. It’s also an effective way of making students accountable to both school authorities and parents.

“Not only will the school reap the benefits of the involvement, but the parent will too by interacting with teachers, administrators and other parents on the regular basis,” says Mutambazi.

He further adds that parents will also gain a firsthand understanding of their children’s daily activities. As a parent, he says, such involvement helps parents to tap into trends and fads of school life that can help them communicate with their children better as they grow up.

On the same note, Swagga points out that by doing that, parents increase their interaction and discussion with their children

“They gain more knowledge of the child development, there is more use of affection and positive reinforcement and less punishment on their children,” he says.

What the policy says

According to Eugene Rukyeba, the director of schools leadership and management at Rwanda Education Board (REB), under article 8 of the REB policies, teachers should respect parental rights of enquiry consultation and information with regard to their children.

It also states that teachers should seek to establish friendly and cooperative relationship with parents. He says the school is supposed to elect parents on the school management committee.

This, Rukyeba says, helps parents to have a role in decision-making in school matters, especially when it comes to setting the standards they want for their children.

Parents share Their thoughts

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Sharon Mukamugema

Sharon Mukamugema, parent from Kicukiro

I always try to follow up on my children’s performance at school. It’s through this that I get to know what they like and don’t like. I also share this information with my neighbour who is a teacher, who assists where necessary.

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Aminadhad Niyoshuti

Aminadhad Niyoshuti, teacher

As a teacher and parent, I always participate in all the activities that require parents to be at school. I also create time every two weeks to visit the school just to check on how my son is fairing and if the school is providing for the education needs for learners.

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Aline Uwimana

Aline Uwimana,  Kigali resident

At the school where my children studies from, they have software which updates all parents on whatever is happening at school. This keeps me updated on my children’s activities at school. I check on them on the daily basis just to know how they are proceeding with their school work.

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Everist Ntaganda

Everist Ntaganda, parent from Remera

For me I make sure my children have the fundamental things that are required at school. This helps them to be more comfortable and increases their chances of performing well.