Getting parents involved in their children’s learning, especially at home, is known to make a real difference and potentially has a much bigger impact on a child’s success at school than anything else.
Every student has unlimited potential. But there are contributing factors that can affect whether they eventually live up to that potential. Experts believe that a parent’s role in a child’s life has far-reaching impact. Parental involvement is extremely important for a child to do well in school.
Jean Habimana, a third year student at University of Kigali, recalls that while in primary and high school, he found himself spending most of his time at an uncle’s place next to their home in Kimironko.
He says this was because his parents worked outside Kigali, and sometimes, even outside the country, leaving him with limited time to spend with them.
“I grew up with my cousins and although I was looked after really well in an extended family, there are things I believe that only parents can accomplish, especially when it comes to parental love,” he says.
Habimana says the distance between him and his parents had a great impact on his overall wellbeing, which included school, and he doesn’t want the same thing to happen to his family in the future.
John, a parent and the director at Kigali Harvest School in Kigali, says that parents have no option but to try to balance work and home.
He says that because the cost of living is becoming increasingly high, many parents are forced to work overtime, leaving home early in the morning and going back late, consequently, finding it hard to make time for the children.
Because of this, he says, television and other gadgets take over.
Research has shown that the effect of parents and what they do at home to support learning can account for 80 per cent of a child’s academic success. This compares to school being directly responsible for around 20 per cent of factors leading to academic achievement.
This is because parents are crucial in shaping a child’s perception and approach to learning. Parents are fundamental in determining whether or not the child aspires to learn and achieve, is well behaved within school and has good attendance. Often, parents can also offer the one opportunity most children get for regular one-to-one learning, according to an article published in The Independent, a British online newspaper.
What is the impact?
Some parents may think that it is the teachers’ role to teach, not theirs. Which is why they may not be so keen to check even basic things like the student’s books to see if their class work is up to date. Or if they received and did their homework.
But such beliefs do both the parent and learner a disservice. Children don’t start and stop learning only during school hours. They are always attuned to learning, at home, with friends, and through other influences.
Nzayisenge says because some children rarely spend time with their parents, it’s difficult for them to make the effort to take control of their own studies, let alone behaviour.
Many children nowadays are being raised by the house-help who more or less do everything for them.
He says that even some parents who may have time for their children tend to pamper them, which also affects their academic performance.
“Some parents don’t encourage their children to learn how to do basic and essential domestic chores that are beneficial for when they start their life away from home,” he says.
Pauline Bayisenge, a teacher at St Patrick School in Kicukiro, agrees with Nzayisenge, and says that overly pampered learners become too demanding.
She says that in a bid to ‘protect’ their children, parents, when approached by teachers about their child’s worrying behaviour, tend to get defensive. This will only make learners incapable of taking care of themselves, or taking responsibility.
How this affects education
In the early years, parents are their children’s first teachers — exploring nature, and, reading, cooking, and counting together. When a child begins formal school, the parent’s job is to demonstrate how school can lengthen the learning started at home, and how exciting and meaningful this learning can be. As preschoolers grow into school age kids, parents become their children’s learning coaches. Through guidance and reminders, parents help their kids organise their time and support their desires to learn new things in and out of school.
Bayisenge says that parents need to be more involved in their children’s lives, especially adolescents, as this is a very crucial stage.
She says that lack of parental guidance may make a learner prone to bad behaviour; neglecting them could lead to withdrawal and stress, which will negatively affect their performance in school.
“As a child’s first teachers, parents are the first influence in their life. The attitude, views, goals and perspectives depend to a large extent on what they learn from their parents,” she says.
How to fix this, Bayisenge says, is by working hand-in-hand with schools and if and when there is a problem, if the parent is busy, the school can step in and handle the situation before it gets out of hand.
Bayisenge advises parents not to ignore the needs of their children, as this can make them feel unloved, or worthless.
Didace Mugisha, a psychologist in Kigali, says having no time for learners can lead to low self-esteem and isolation, adding that many times, this can affect the mental health or social development of such children, or even have long life psychological scars.
Isaac Ddumba, a teacher at La Colombière School in Kigali, says that learners should be encouraged to work hard, like the saying goes — you reap what you sow.
He says that correcting learners when they do something wrong, instead of ignoring their behaviour, is important. And this should be practiced at school and home.
“When we talk of castigation, it doesn’t mean corporal punishment, there are many ways to keep learners in line,” he says.
However, Ddumba says, this can only be achieved if parents get involved in their children’s life.
Jacky Iribagiza, matron at Martyr School in Remera, says that children these days are raised to depend on others, whereby they won’t be able to figure out how to survive in the absence of those who do everything for them.
She says that parents should warm up to boarding school, especially for those who are old enough to be there.
“Boarding schools are good at inculcating a spirit of independence in learners, more than day schools. Also, schools in general help in fighting the reliance disorder in learners by assigning them tasks in many areas, including leadership,” she says.
Fred Atinga, a teacher at Riviera High School, is of the view that learners who are spoon-fed always lack the will to do things on their own.
Because of this, he says, teachers have to put in more effort, for example, demanding a daily personal routine or timetable which will help them stay focused if followed well.
He adds that education in the modern era should involve teaching students what their parents have failed to; emphasis being on essential chores.
“When students are taught how to do some tasks on their own, especially from an early stage, it helps mould them to fit in any environment they are exposed to,” he says.
Another way to fix this, Ddumba says, is through parent-teacher conferencing. He explains that this should be scheduled in each and every school.
However, parent-teacher conferences can be stressful for both parties, because the conversations are high stakes for everyone. Parents are anxious about their child’s progress and also their parenting reputation. Teachers are anxious about their teaching reputation and about whether parents will be angry if the child is struggling in some area. Both parents and teachers are liable to take any cool feedback very personally.
Parents and teachers work together best when they agree on what is best for the child. A good way to begin a conference is to establish that the purpose of the conference is to ensure the best outcome for the child.
Bayisenge says creating good communication among the three parties (parents, teachers and learners) is also vital.
He says that this gives a parent a clear picture of how their children are faring.