Third Eye

Parents have huge role to play in children’s education

Tuesday, September 21st, 2021 00:00 |
Pupils in class. Photo/Courtesy

The debate on the place of parents in the education of their children has reminded me of an experience I had in the early 2000.

My first born son, then in pre-school, and his classmates had been asked by their teacher to narrate a story in class as the rest of the children listened. 

Each of them had been asked to source the story they would amuse the class with from parents—for those who had no ready story to tell.

“Please tell me a story so that when I am called upon to tell one, I will be ready,” I recall my son telling me.

It is unfortunate I had not been narrating coherent stories to my children. Unfortunate because by the time I was his age, I had lots of stories in my head, which our mother and grandmother entertained us with.

Our mother had a small book in Luhya language entitled Tsindalo tsia Amani—which Barrack Muluka has translated as The Ogre Days. She read out the stories—sentence by sentence—just before we slept. We hadn’t then started formal schooling so we hadn’t then known how to read.

Similarly, our grandmother entertained us with stories. Again, just before bedtime—we used to sleep in her house.

Unlike our mother who read them out to us from a book, grandma told them off head, and she had more of them, juicier ones, than mom. Intriguingly some storylines were exactly the same—except that our grandma added finesse or dramatics in the narration.

I recalled these memories with renewed respect for the two women who, in their separate ways, played an inexpressible role in my life.

They each gave me an experience, a moral code that still lingers in my life.

Unfortunately for my son, I didn’t have the strong memory my grandmother had to gladly start spinning stories for him, nor did I have a copy of the book our mother used.

I quickly thought of Bible stories. I reread complete stories in the New and Old Testaments.

Within two to three days, my son had a range of stories from the Bible he could fall on, to defend himself in his classroom.

I didn’t stop at the Bible stories. I decided to buy books from local publishers, particularly on folk tales.

The stories are fairly short and less complicated in plot than the modern stories written by modern authors.

I read them and entertained my children with the stories—and they were equally excited listening to them.

The books I bought to read and narrate the stories became valuable reading materials when they joined primary level and read on their own.

The pre-primary school teacher brought home to me the need to not only share relevant storylines with the children but also indirectly made me start buying age- and grade-appropriate books for my children.

I have since bought countless books as they went along the educational ladder.

I have bought classical and modern children’s books—mythologies, novels, poems and short stories on biographies of great men in politics, religion and science.

I was anxious that should I not do it, the children will miss out on the cultural and intellectual heritage all literate people with a basic education, ought to be acquainted with.

I gather from the debate on parental involvement in the education of children, that I was filling this role although without my knowledge. I also gather that my mother and grandmother played a larger than life role in my education.  

I don’t know. My mother and grandmother are probably the reason I found myself in the field of journalism and communication.

They are perhaps, the reason I write to share knowledge and information, gratis, the way they did in their time.

Parental involvement in the education of children is not and should not be burdensome nor must one necessarily be literate.

All that is needed is the presence of parents in the lives and education of the children to provide guidance, direction and moral and emotional support.  

It makes a difference at all education levels of children, although its influence decreases as they progress in age.

It is, however, still needed when children are having learning and behavioural difficulties.

The presence and concern of parents can affect the child’s decision of whether to continue learning or not.

Parental involvement implies among others, that teachers invite parents to regular school meetings and that parents voluntarily commit to prioritise the goals.

Additionally, it means creating a conducive environment at home, ensuring the safety of children while doing schoolwork from home and it doesn’t require technical knowhow of the curriculum.

That is the preserve of the school and the teacher’s child. It requires affection and care for the education of one’s children and everything else falls in place. — The writer is Communications Officer, Ministry of Education

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