In this brochure, we share ideas to help you use your relationship with your child to facilitate their ongoing learning – even while their schooling is disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Parent Power aims to inspire and support parents in South Africa – empowering them to be champions for their children’s education.
The key aspects of the initiative are:
Mahobe Suskiswa, a Grade 12 pupil at the Gwebityala Secondary School near Elliotdale in the Eastern Cape, in front of the small home which she shared with her mother, father and five siblings in 2018. Both her parents were unemployed at that time and they survived on child support grants. Despite difficult circumstances, Mahobe took her school work very seriously. At Gwebityala Secondary School, parents, and in fact, the larger community is very involved with the school thanks to the inspired leadership of the school principal who draws them in to participate in different ways. Read how this quintile one school in a remote, rural area is doing a lot for learners with very little resources (click here).
There are huge quality gaps in South African public schooling, in fact, two-thirds of our grade four learners are unable to read for meaning nicspaull.com. A lack of parental involvement is often mentioned as a contributing factor to such poor educational outcomes, and parental “involvement” is often devolved into support on subject-based homeworkFelix, N., Dornbrack, J. & Sheckle, E. 2008. Parents, homework and socio-economic class: Discourses of deficit and disadvantage in the “new” South Africa. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 7(2): 99-112..
The vast majority of parents want the best for their children from day one, and most will go to great lengths to enhance their child’s life chances. There is however no denying that doing this is more challenging in contexts where parents lack education and resources. More than half (55%) of South Africans live in povertySTATS SA. Poverty trends in South Africa: An examination of absolute poverty between 2006 and 2015. Access here.; and of the approximately 19% of adults with no or low educationSTATS SA. Education Series Volume III: Educational Enrolment and Achievement, 2016. Access here., 79% of them live in poverty. In addition, employed parents from poor backgrounds are more likely to have inflexible work schedules and long commuting times, which makes it difficult for them to be involved parents in the current, narrow conception of “involvement”.
Although parents say they know they should be involved, and want to be involved, they are often not as involved and supportive as they or the school would likeMurray et al. 2017.. Worldwide parents of all walks of life say that they find engaging with their children’s schools intimidating and that they often feel redundant in their child’s learning journeyBarwell, C. 2017. No parent left behind: How parents can change the global landscape of education. Brookings Institution. Access here.. This is so much more the case for parents with low levels of education, who are living in impoverished communities and had negative schooling experiences themselvesMurray et al. 2017..
A number of studies have found that many South African parents from a poverty context feel very disempoweredmit, A. G. & Liebenberg, L. 2003. Understanding the dynamics of parent involvement in schooling within the poverty context.. They feel they have little, if any, say in the education of their children where children are taught by teachers who are much better qualified. As a result, they rely heavily upon those who occupy positions of power around them, such as school staff to assist in their lives. This reliance is often simply ignored, leading to an unequal relationship between schools and parents, where parents are unable to hold schools accountable.
Yet, parents are the first educators of their children. Their ability to know and love their child best has unparalleled benefits. Research from the Research on Socioeconomic Policy Group (RESEP) found that encouragement and support from parents, not necessarily assistance with specific homework, improved learner achievement even for children attending schools where the education offered is not of great qualityBergbauer A, The role of inter-personal interactions in South African education, Research on Socioeconomic Policy (ReSEP), Working Paper 09/16. . It is important for parents, teachers and school managers to understand that parents bring value to their child’s educational journey by virtue of being a caring parent who wants the best for their children. Moreover, parents have untapped power – and rights – to hold school managers and teachers accountable for quality standard.
Through this initiative, DGMT envisages a South Africa where parents are able to analyse information about children’s school experience and learning journey, and exercise their power both individually and collectively to demand that all South African children receive a holistic quality education.
Ultimately, there are only two ways to improve the world – through technology and through behaviour change. Our annual publication, the Human Factor, focuses on the latter.
The second issue of the Human Factor again challenges South Africans to rethink their expectations – this time of parents, and their role as their children’s first teachers and champions of their education, even once they enter the formal education system. Entitled ‘The heart of parenting – how the alchemy of love, hope and fear prepares children for life’, this issue explores what gives parents the power to champion their children’s education, and what takes it away.
Read it here.
Zimkhita Dudu sits with her daughter as she is doing homework on the floor. They share a small shack with Zimkhita sisters and many other children. Zimkhita says without the help and support of her sisters she is not sure she and her daughter would have survived the difficulties of daily life.
Knowledge is critical in the hands of parents who feel powerful and are ready for action. Therefore we will create a communications campaign that will:
A national campaign and research will not be enough to stimulate action though. Mobilisation in schools is important to create opportunities to develop a wider movement of activated parents and to develop their agency.
School engagement will be done through a School Report Card which will be used by parents to rate their perceptions and experiences of their child’s school. The School Report Card is designed around perceptions of the following contributors to quality education:
The collective report card results will be used to empower parents to work together to ensure that they are able to challenge power imbalances, assert their role as activated parents, and ensure high quality education for their children within the school.
We plan to collaborate with School Governing Bodies to implement the report card strategy. Feeding into our public communications and advocacy work, the partnership will enable us to:
The National Survey of Parents Perceptions and Experiences of Quality will gauge parent’s experiences and perceptions on five areas that contribute to quality educationThese areas of quality are based on the following resources: A review of South African and international literature on quality education, including the National Policy on Whole School Evaluation (WSE) and the quality assurance tools utilised by the Department of Basic Education (DBE), identified five areas that contribute to quality education.. The study will also illustrate signal that education is about the holistic development of children, and shine a light on the shifts that need to occur in parents perceptions of quality within the education system. The survey will provide insight into whether parents’ current experiences in schools encourage their active participation in schools, and findings will be shared in a publication that will demonstrate to parents that their experiences and perceptions are shared, and importantly, can be shifted. The survey findings will also help us to frame key issues for policy and to benchmark progress for accountability, and; develop a public advocacy campaign built on a common language and shared set of experiences for parents to mobilise around.
“My grandmother had six daughters who worked far away from home. So when they had babies they came home and left their babies to live with her. We only got to know our parents when we were older; we were always grandchildren. I have three grandchildren who live with me. Children are a gift from God, I love children, even all of those who are playing there at school; they will come here after school and play. Love is very important to children. You can see the children who don’t get love from home. I think I got my love for children from my grandmother because she loved children. She would not divide us, she just gave us all equal love. She was a loving person to all people”.
Thobeka Gogo from Keiskammahoek in the Western Cape.
During 2020 we will implement the Pilot and Design Phase of the Parent Empowerment Initiative. Key milestones will include:
Particular focus will be placed on engaging with the parent body in 25 schools where the school report card will be piloted, to understand how the report card lands in the hands of parents and SGBs. Furthermore, as different strategies for implementation will be tested, the initiative will focus on refining a clear methodology for scale. We will conduct focus groups with parents when designing the Parent Power Packs to ensure that the content that is relevant for parents and use iterative testing to assess tools and products. We will also monitor media engagement and key phrases in the media to assess the value of communications products and campaign work.
|⇧2||Felix, N., Dornbrack, J. & Sheckle, E. 2008. Parents, homework and socio-economic class: Discourses of deficit and disadvantage in the “new” South Africa. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 7(2): 99-112.|
|⇧3||STATS SA. Poverty trends in South Africa: An examination of absolute poverty between 2006 and 2015. Access here.|
|⇧4||STATS SA. Education Series Volume III: Educational Enrolment and Achievement, 2016. Access here.|
|⇧5, ⇧7||Murray et al. 2017.|
|⇧6||Barwell, C. 2017. No parent left behind: How parents can change the global landscape of education. Brookings Institution. Access here.|
|⇧8||mit, A. G. & Liebenberg, L. 2003. Understanding the dynamics of parent involvement in schooling within the poverty context.|
|⇧9||Bergbauer A, The role of inter-personal interactions in South African education, Research on Socioeconomic Policy (ReSEP), Working Paper 09/16.|
|⇧10||These areas of quality are based on the following resources: A review of South African and international literature on quality education, including the National Policy on Whole School Evaluation (WSE) and the quality assurance tools utilised by the Department of Basic Education (DBE), identified five areas that contribute to quality education.|