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 do their best in finding to solutions.
By Katherine Nabuzale
It is back to school time again! The 2018 school year just began and as usual, pupils, students are excited about joining a new class or school while majority of the parents are caught up 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 any ordinary Ugandan. However, much as these private education institutions may appear to fill the void in the education crisis, it is not 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 totally out. This partly explains why up 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 thus, summoning people's collective power as a community to support and positively influence progress plus development of schools as their responsibility.
Because of deteriorated performance in public schools, there is distrust in the delivery of education in these schools, which by their design were purposed to serve as community schools, preference for private ones has been growing. Community has relinquished its power to private proprietors of schools choosing to apportion all blame on the Government, rather than confronting the problem.
A community is where one's heritage lies. Where you grow up and with whom, has a huge influence in the outlook you have on 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 too, 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 do their best in finding to solutions.
Essentially, when 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 participation 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 education 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 programs.
Ways to encourage community engagement in schools
Finding effective ways to involve and engage community is key - understanding a community's unique strengths and challenges is a right place to start to successfully bring it into schools to contribute and affect positive change. This can be done through awareness programs, adult education, citizenship responsibility and roles.
Introduce open day's initiative: Invite all community to attend regular school meetings so they can see and know what is happening and encourage them to take up roles. For instance, individuals can offer mentoring services and overseeing some school activities, among others.
Mentoring students on their academic performance, behaviour and life is very important for the growth and development of learners. Proper mentorship leads to good performance as the learners feel those who help and encourage them deserve nothing less. A student without a mentor is like an explorer without a map.
Volunteering is one of the most common and popular ways to encourage community involvement in schools: Connect with community to benefit from their various strengths, competences and generosity. Enlist volunteers like local businesses, civic organisations, charities, non-profit foundations and other groups in the community to come in before, during and after school.
Volunteering can come in many different ways and forms: invite local leaders, alumni and well wishers to visit the schools and speak about their professions on career's day. Encourage community members to get involved by volunteering with enrichment opportunities such as tutoring, fine arts clubs, sports clubs and many others.
Create and publicise sponsorship and donation programmes/needs throughout the community to give local organisations and businesses the opportunity to partner with the school. The justification is that not every individual, organisation, business and family will have the time and capacity to participate in-person and on-site volunteer opportunities and engagements.
Further more; creating meaningful partnerships with the community is essential. For example, partnering with scholastic suppliers to supply at subsidised prices would make materials affordable to children.
As we seek to refine and reform today's system of education, emphasis on community involvement is crucial. Get community involved even if it means taking school meetings and discussions to the community - this could be to places of worship, social places and even work places.
The prosperity of schools as critical learning centres will only accelerate with full involvement of the community in them. The fact that community plays a vital role should not be downplayed or overlooked. Learners' success is generally the result of three groups namely; teachers, parents and community collaborating to provide the best opportunities for the future.
The writer is a Ugandan living in Germany