The main priority of any teacher is to ensure that their students succeed. A student’s success can be measured in many ways; by receiving good grades, how much they are involved in class, or even how well they have improved.
No matter how you measure success, a teacher’s goal is to strive and help each and every student reach their full potential. They can do this by applying a few teaching strategies to their everyday classroom routine.
However, the exceptional role of parental involvement in a child’s education cannot be overstated. Participation of parents in their children’s school activities and work plays a significant role in their academic success, and research backs this up.
A number of studies indicate that parents’ involvement in their children’s academic life always yields better results for the learner. Students with involved parents stand a high chance of not only getting better grades, but also having better social skills, improved behaviour, among other benefits.
However, education experts warn that this form of involvement from the parents’ side doesn’t just happen, for it calls for ways and approaches which can motivate them to do so, and that this should be done by school management.
Lack of information on the relevance of this, among other factors, are some of the constraints hindering parents from assuming the role they have to play in their children’s academic life.
Peter Gasinzigwa, the head of the examination items bank at Rwanda Education Board, says that it’s a must for each and every school to hold PTA (parent–teacher association) meetings often, if possible, weekly or twice a month.
He says it’s through these important meetings that schools provide parents with clear information about the school, and anything else that is expected of them.
He also believes that parents are motivated to be close to their children through these meetings, and that without having them often, it’s easy for them to ignore their role as parents.
Gasinzigwa notes that parents ought to use such platforms as an opportunity to communicate expectations and concerns, and at the same time, share their opinions on what they think should be improved.
Experts also argue that clear communication between teachers and parents is vital and this is possible only if parents actively participate in their children’s academic life.
Donald Munyeshuri, an IT teacher at Lycee de Kigali, says parents’ involvement in schools helps them understand better, and be updated. In addition to this, he says, they also have the advantage of being aware of what they are expected to do always.
He points out that when teachers find better ways of communicating with parents, everything runs smoothly, in that when an issue arises concerning students’ welfare, both parties are in the position to communicate easily and act accordingly.
Munyeshuri is of the view that schools can adopt methods of technology that will facilitate communication with parents.
“In this era where everything is going digital, schools shouldn’t be left behind. This can be done through phone calls, or text messages or even software that has been developed to update parents on matters going on at school,” he says.
Paul Swagga, a tutor at Akilah Institute for Women in Kiyovu, says school administrators should create awareness for parents on the role they have to play in their children’s academic endeavours.
This is important because it sheds more light on what is expected of parents, he says.
“Some parents don’t know what to do to collaborate with teachers, for instance, when it comes to keeping track of the academic progress of their children. In most cases, they seem to concentrate on providing scholastic materials to their children,” he says.
He, therefore, says parents need to be guided on when and how to intervene, rather than making it the teachers’ sole responsibility.
Additionally, Swagga observes that teachers and parents have to be in close contact so as to share ideas about what needs to be done to enable students to excel in their studies.
For instance, he says, in some cases, parents only interact with teachers during visitation days yet it should be an ongoing process aimed at keeping track of the performance of the children in academics and co-curricular activities.
“Parents need to be aware of programmes and activities taking place at school and how they can get involved as well. It is through such interactions that some undesirable tendencies among young people can be done away with,” adds Swagga.
Shamira Umutoniwase, an English teacher, also says it’s important for the school administration to help class teachers plan on how to meet parents.
She puts emphasis on face-to-face meetings where both teachers and parents can easily interact, adding that this should be done in the first days of school, for example, at the opening or depending on the schedule of the school.
As a class teacher, Umutoniwase says it’s vital to know the strengths, weaknesses and even interests of each and every child. When they get to know the parents of these students, it’s easy for them to work together to see the learner succeed academically.
“When a learner is supported both at home and school, they always improve, especially when it comes to nurturing their talents,” she says.
Swagga says when parents are encouraged and motivated to be involved in everything about their children’s academic life, learners become more responsible, especially when they realise that their parents collaborate with the teachers.
He notes that the importance of this is that while at home, parents will always remember to watch what their children do and give advice where necessary.
Umutoniwase also adds that because of frequent communication with the teachers, parents are motivated to work hand-in-hand with their children so that they can give feedback to teachers on how their kids are doing while at home.
“This can be done through helping their children with class work or homework depending on the level of the child. Without motivation, some parents ignore this role and assume that it’s the teacher’s responsibility,” she says.
Munyeshuri says that parents will always keep in mind the relevance of a close relationship with teachers, hence, be ready to communicate or even avail themselves to teachers anytime they are called without giving excuses.
He says parents’ involvement in academics builds a strong bond between the three parties—parents, teachers and students.
When parents understand what the school requires of them, it becomes easy for them to help their children maintain discipline while at home, which is very important, Munyeshuri says.
David Kamanzi, Teacher
I think collaboration between parents, teachers and local leaders in the communities the students are from is something to consider. It means that learners will not only be cared for by parents, but society as a whole.
Benite Uwimana, Teacher
It’s important for students to share their ideas, they should be involved in decision making, especially on matters that concern them. This will help parents and teachers come up with better ways to help them.
Olivier Gasana, Parent
Giving students the option to go for what they are passionate about is important. Parents are advised to support their children if they want them to succeed in whatever they choose to do.
Patricia Ihirwe, Mentor
Teachers should be aware of students’ background; this will help them provide support depending on the need of the child. Also, encouraging the students to help each other is important as it promotes unity.