Parental involvement: When money is not all you need

The results for last year’s national examinations were released and we are grateful there was no repeat of the Kenyan scenario where children with low scores chose to commit suicide.

The results for last year’s national examinations were released and we are grateful there was no repeat of the Kenyan scenario where children with low scores chose to commit suicide. In Uganda, one newspaper reported the death of a child who drowned in the River Nile where he had gone to celebrate his success in the recent Primary Leaving Exams.

In previous years, faith based schools in Rwanda have continued to excel—a factor I once attributed to their very strict code of discipline. In many schools, the laissez-faire attitude of students negatively affects academics and this was evident in this year’s results.

However, I do not intend to talk about the performance of schools this time. Something more interesting caught my attention in the last week. Makerere University held a graduation ceremony. This often includes a week long process of passing out thousands of graduates.

Graduation season at Makerere is never complete without the consequent graduation parties for most of those who are so happy to have finally completed their studies. I have attended quite a number of these parties where the main theme is usually how tough the journey was.

The parties are also attributed to the people who had a hand in the celebrants’ education. I mean the ones who paid the tuition, the ones who offered pocket money every once in a while, the ones who helped them get into a certain school, even with low marks, the ones who offered advice and so many other forms of help.

These people often include parents, grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunties, friends, charity organisations and even classmates. Now the other day I was in a taxi in Kampala and there was an interesting debate on radio where panellists were tasked with explaining why most children during their graduation parties are known to thank their mothers more than their fathers.

Many of the discussants argued that, in many cases, fathers either abandon children born in polygamous situations, for example, or simply born out of wedlock. In other cases, fathers were accused of simply paying for tuition and not bothering to visit or even counsel their child which is not enough.

I did not follow the whole discussion since I soon had to alight from the taxi the second I got to my stop but I think the point about how fathers often behave with their children is a pertinent one. Many times the role of parents in regards to the upbringing of children is unfairly distributed.

A father is pressed to pick the financial bill of the child’s education and once he has done that he thinks he is done—he finds no need to visit the child at school or even talk to them. In fact , many fathers or parents, in general only get to visit their children over a disciplinary matter at school!

It is common to hear of a father telling off a child to, “go and tell your mother.” And if it is a financial issue the mother, in turn, responds, “go and ask your father for money.” Such social dynamics are what have compelled children to cherish the encouraging words of their mothers and sometimes forget the father’s involvement.

However, this should not be just about money and words. Both parents need to be more involved in the education of their children. It is a shame to pay school fees without a clue on your child’s performance in class.

Money can only do so much; children need love and advice as well. Find the time to follow up on their progress, to encourage them and listen to their stories. If a child can cherish the words of encouragement from their mother, then I am sure, the father’s won’t hurt.