Wednesday March 7 2018

Why communities should play a role in operation of schools

communities play role operation schools

Ms Nabuzale is Ugandan living in Germany. COURTESY PHOTO 

By Katherine Nabuzale

It’s back to school time again! The 2018 school year just began and as usual, students are excited about joining a new class or school while majority of the parents are caught in the school fees search maze. The ailing education system has left many parents with no option, but to take their children to private schools whose dues are way too exorbitant for many ordinary Ugandans.

However, much as these private education institutions may appear to fill the void in the education crisis, it isn’t all merry. Privatisation has its own down side, especially when it comes to an essential sector like education. We have literally been brain-washed to think of privatisation as a one-stop solution to resolve all Uganda’s problems, education not withstanding. This partly explains why the community has relegated its role in the education of their children to schools or rather to sole individuals, the proprietors of the private schools for academic excellence.

The genesis of this problem begins with the way formal education was introduced in Uganda. The community had no stake in its design and purpose, neither was the model targeted at solving the community problems of the time. Colonial education was purposely meant for fostering colonial interests. For instance, its primary purpose was to develop a vast pool of cheap semi-skilled labour that served their imperial objectives hence keeping community’s participation in the education sector out. This partly explains why to date, communities are less involved in the development of schools. Such a mentality that someone else is responsible for the education structure and curriculum content has denigrated the community to the peripheries.

To get community more present in apt functioning of schools begins with de-construction of the present mindset, and refranchise the mind, to comprehend why schools and community should be closely related. This will summon people’s collective power as a community to support and influence progress of schools as their responsibility.
Due to the deteriorating performance of public schools, there is distrust in the delivery of education in these institutions, which by their design, were purposed to serve as community schools, preference for private ones has been growing. Communities have relinquished their power to private proprietors of schools.

A community is where one’s heritage lies. Where you grow and with whom you grow up, have a huge influence in you life. This reaffirms that the responsibility of raising a well-educated and civic-minded generation of children cannot rest wholly with schools and parents. The broader community has a duty in the provision of high quality education for all learners. A community active in the education of its children motivates them to critically think about the challenges prevalent in the community, inspires, supports, and encourages them to findo solutions.

Essentially, when a community is passive in education matters, children can barely recognise that their contribution in the community is paramount and that they are the solutions to the change that they so much desire. Developing our communities starts with each and every one of us, where we take keen interest as well as participate in the development and growth of schools.

In a 2002 research review by Anne T Henderson and Karen L Mapp - A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family and Community Connections on Student Achievement - the researchers concluded that there is a significant positive correlation between school, family and community involvement and student success.

Oftentimes, the onus for providing a well-rounded educational experience for every student falls directly on the shoulders of the school administrators, teachers, faculty and staff. However, this perspective overlooks the fact that much of a child’s life and education occurs outside the classroom. What happens before the school day starts and after it ends is just as important and impactful in the lives of learners as what happens during the traditional school day. This is why community engagement and involvement in schools is such an indispensable facet of the educational process.

Consistent community involvement and engagement at all levels of the school has been shown time and time again to have significant short and long-term benefits. According to a recent policy brief from National Education Association of America, when schools, parents and communities work together to support learning, students tend to earn higher grades, improved behaviour is registered, school attendance is more regular, stay longer in school and enrol in high level programmes.

Finding effective ways to involve and engage community is key - understanding a community’s unique strengths and challenges is a right place to start from so as to successfully bring it into schools to contribute and affect positive change. This can be done through awareness programmes, adult education, citizenship responsibility and roles, among others.

Ms Nabuzale is Ugandan living in Germany.