In 2011, MGSLG, in partnership with the Gauteng Department of Education, began the delivery of the parental/family support programme. The programme was motivated by the need to increase parental involvementin public schools; particularly in resource-deficient, under-performing schooling environments. From its inception, the Parental/Family Support Programme was linked to the strategic goals of the GDE. The GDE Strategic Plan 2010-2014 spoke boldly of the need to strengthen GDE’s partnerships with all stakeholders to ensure that education became a societal priority. The partnership with parents was pivotal in this regard.
The initial offering began with imbizo-style mass gatherings but gradually evolved into small groups, classroom discussions at each targeted school. Following 3 years of delivery, the programme has grown substantially in both the scope and curriculum to the extent that in the current financial period virtually doublethe total number of schools from the 2011 cohort will be covered. In addition, the 2014 programme will tackle the importance of parenting in the context of psycho-social impediments to effective teaching and learning – much wider than the original programme conception around the importance of parental participation in schooling. The popularity of the programme is evident in the fact that each year parental attendance has increased to the extent that over 3 years of delivery this number has approximated just short of 300000 – roughly 100000 parents per annum.
“Parents as Partners in Education - Building Cohesive Communities to Support School Improvement”
The School-Parent Partnership Programme is aimed at providing Parents a platform from which to contribute their support to schools in the nine functional areas of the Whole School Evaluation framework. School Functionality speaks to the improvement of the school environment in aspects covering all areas of the school. Parents are encouraged to share their thoughts, ideas and opinions on how they can contribute to the improvement of quality of teaching and learning. Parents are also encouraged to participate in all important committees of the school and to carry the banner into their homes and community structures. Ultimately, it is envisaged that parents will be supported to widen their participation and become part of an improvement strategy that will contribute directly towards enhancing learner achievement.
Scope of the Parental Programme
Over the 2013-14 financial period, the focus of the parental programme was largely on the need to increase parental awareness in respect of social ills that negatively impacted the lives of children in our schools.
The Parental/Family Support Programme for 2014-2015 endeavours to address the roles and responsibilities of parents in support of learner achievement in the face of Psycho-Social challenges that learners face. The framework for the 2014/2015 training material has been developed and the programme will cover the following key focus areas:
- Substance Abuse
- Teenage Pregnancy
- Child Sexual Abuse/Assault/Exploitation
- Harmful Religious Practices
- ICT Safety
At the conclusion of the roll-out, a total of 106997 parents attended the face-to-face workshops at 1287 schools. The success of the programme was marked by the issuing of the Silver award in the Premier’s Service Excellence Awards Public Participation Category and the Bronze award in the GDE Service Excellence Award for the Best Project category.
Beneficiaries shared their stories
A 79 year old grandmother who is looking after orphaned grandchildren requested Mathematics refresher training as she says the grand children are disappointed by her inability to help them with their homework. In her own words she indicated that: “I still have some memories of how (BODMAS) work but the curriculum is very different now”. The children will then will start playing on the computer and the cell phone and not do their homework. More parents indicated interest as the other parents indicated the child sits until late doing homework and the child is so stressed and seem to be losing weight because of the homework those parents cannot help with. The principal promised parent to follow up the request.
I had one elderly lady who is over sixty breaking into tears and told us that her grandson who is 19 years old is a Gang member and he does not only terrorise the community but they also live in fear as a family. The grandson is always carrying a gun and when she asked him not to bring the gun home he says he needs to protect himself in case his rivals come to attack him. He smokes dagga anywhere in the house and anytime in front of his siblings. Her greatest fear is for the other two grandsons who might see him as a role model and want to join him. The saddest thing is that their mother who is her daughter passed away three years ago so old lady is faced with this problem.
There was a 24 year old lady who is a mother of two girls who fell pregnant when she was 16 years old and again when she was 18 years old. It was sad to hear that, she fell pregnant because she did not get any guidance and support from her parents who are still alive and still don’t care. Her first born daughter is in Grade 2 and she is very protective of her and the other younger one because she does not want history to repeat itself. She advised and urged parents to be there for their children.
Three mothers told us that their children are using drugs and steal everything that they come across. One lady told us that she decided to lock the house when she went to work but her son came through the roof and took stuff.
A 51 years old mother of three from Ekudibeng region shared the following story at one of the Parental Partnership Programme Sessions: “I was married when I was only 17 years old and was blessed with three boys. Ever since I was married my marriage has been a living hell. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday I had to sleep at my neighbours’ houses with my children because of all types of abuse including physical violence that I endured. It was only when I turned 34 years old that I realised that I cannot take this anymore. I still loved my husband and together we worked hard and build a big house for our family but all the abuse just got to me and I decided to leave the marriage and my home of seventeen years. It was a difficult decision to make as going it alone with three children was not easy either. Lucky I went back to my mother’s four room house, but even there it was not my children’s’ home and I also had to deal with family problems.”
At school I was called by teachers as my children, all of them started having worse behaviour problem while in the marriage and after, bullying, smoking, being disrespectful, lying banking school not doing homework, poor performance in school work, and general negativity. All of us had to undergo both family and individual counselling for lengthy periods. I managed to extend my mothers’ house to accommodate the four of us. I also prayed to God for a life partner and eventually I met a man who today you cannot tell that he is not the biological father of my children until I say it. I am thankful to the support of teachers and social workers my last born son is now in Grade 7 and I am hoping he will also join the brothers at tertiary. She would like to be part of the support group in the school.
A 47 years old father in Ekudibeng who works away from home attended the session and shared how he now had made a decision to resign from his work in another province because he had to leave the children with their mother. The workshop helped him to do introspection as now he understands what his children are going through “I am working far from home and I spend months away before coming home. Although I try to call my children often I just realised that I need to be at home every day to listen to what my children say about their experiences and be able to guide them. “One day I came back from my long distance job and went to my son’s school. The teachers were surprised to find that he has a father because he has a problem especially of bullying other children. What confused them was his lunch box which was always well balanced and enough. The teachers explained to the father all the challenges that the son is having. After resolving that while at work he received a call from his mother, not his wife saying the daughter is pregnant, he was shocked and could not see how he can help his children, but now after the Parental Partnership Programme session, he made a decision to look for another job near home and spend more time with his children and the coming grandchild. He mentioned that “I can see what my absence does to my daughter, who is 15 years old and has been bullied for the past year by classmates, friends and even kids who don't know her at all. They have called her a stalker, gay, a slut (she has never even had a boyfriend). It all started by one girl posting a photo of her on Facebook. This girl was relentless in her attack on my daughter.
My daughter has had milk thrown on her, told she was a failed abortion, called just about everything you can think of. One girl in our neighbourhood shouts at her on the street and my daughter barely even knows her but I believe my daughter's so called friends are telling her stuff to set her off. My rant is what makes these girls think they are better than her, these girls are into drinking and sex and are only 13 years old, so what do they do, they pick on my daughter because she does not do any of these so called "cool" things.
I am so tired of her having to deal with these girls just because they think they are better than her. The most sickening part is that these girls are referred to as sweet and nice girls. Nice people do not try to make other people feel bad or miserable.