In the last two weeks, the media reported a very disheartening story. A man (bricklayer), resident of Jinja-Kaloli, Kawempe Division, accidentally killed his seven-year-old daughter, Irene Nambalirwa for failing to do her homework.
This story left many perplexed. Cursing the culprit and feeling sorry for the innocent soul that died for no good reason. I believe majority of the people that read the story find this man guilty and want him hanged. The authority however remains in the hands of the Judiciary.
The beating children in the name of enforcing learning is still widespread. There’s a number of unrecorded cases of parents beating their children for failure to accomplish given tasks. It is important to understand the genesis of this problem if we’re to overcome it. Parents often times get frustrated due to lack of basic instructional knowledge and skills to help learners with their homework.
The education of children is a responsibility of a number of stakeholders; including the parents, teachers, government and the community at large. The concept of education that is held by a great number of people in those categories is contrary to real education.
It is unfortunate that parents make up the biggest percentage of this subgroup. Yet teachers deliberately choose to ignore some components and focus on only one—academics.
The learning process
As partners and sponsors, parents must be fully engaged in their children’s learning process.
Their role goes beyond the payment of school fees and ferrying of learners to school and vice versa. Parents need to understand the curriculum content children receive at school, participate in teaching and assessment of the learner’s educational achievement.
As part of their responsibilities, the National Early Childhood Development Policy tasks teachers to always provide appropriate guidance and counselling, and involve parents/guardians in monitoring progress of learners.
This legal framework lays a firm ground for schools as centres for parent education. Unlike the government, parents interact with schools on a daily basis and thus most suitable for providing them with the basic knowledge needed in the proper upbringing and learning of children.
A good majority of parents did not acquire education to the level attained by most teachers. It is also important to note that even those that are learned might have studied a curriculum different from what their children are studying.
This calls for enlightenment. It also allows the parents to evaluate the curriculum from the context of their background, allowing them to realise whether the children are getting relevant knowledge.
It is important that schools also introduce parents to basic age appropriate instructional methods. The parents couch the learners at home and help them with their homework. Knowing what is required of them and understanding thier role in the entire process shouldn’t be out of guessing. The guessing coupled with the time limitation in most cases frustrates the parents to the point of losing their patience. Majority end up beating the children.
Parent education is more critical for learners with special needs. A number of parents may not understand that their children have a particular condition requiring special attention. Children with learning needs are handled differently. The teacher is more placed to realise this before the parents.
If they don’t take the initiative to brief the parent about the matter, let’s say a child with dysgraphia will keep receiving blows from the parent for thier failure to write as expected.
Teachers should make it clear to the parents that children learn through a number of ways. The relevance of play, storytelling and singing in learning should be clearly highlighted. Parents also need to understand the relevance of the mother tongue in learning and help them overcome the English language obsession.
The good news is that some urban schools have already started this practice. Parents are regularly hosted in parent-teacher conferences where numerous ideas on the learning of the children are shared. In these conferences, the parent gets familiarised with the curriculum, the art of instruction and pedagogy, assessment of level of achievement and special needs consideration among others.
In conclusion, the ministry of Education needs to tighten the grip on this crucial matter. There’s also need to deemphasize formal homework since it greatly interferes with the child’s informal and nonformal education.
The writer is a behaviour change communicator & ECD educator with a bias on special needs education.