I am excellent, fantastic, splendiferous, happier than a Slinky on an escalator, and getting ready for the holidays a la Rosenbloom, which means a lotta wine and a lotta noise.
Anyway, enjoy yourselves and, if you have time, take a quick gander at the following article from Monday's The Guardian about parents as agents of change in the education sector in Tanzania. Nakutakieni Thanksgiving njema!
Simply defined, an 'agent of change' is someone who knows and understands the dynamics that facilitate or hinder change, and utilizes his/her knowledge and skills to champion making a change. This person is self-motivated by an urge to see positive changes in his/her environment.
Since independence, our education system has gone through a number of significant changes, some of which were necessary and some not. The main changes in the curriculum have been observed at the primary and secondary levels.
In the last two decades, there has been a dramatic change in the education system which affected the curriculum, textbooks, and much more. However, all these changes have not been due to various socioeconomic policies but rather the wishes of the prevailing education ministers.
In one way or another, these changes have had an adverse effect on teachers, students and parents. With each change in the curriculum, students and teachers have had to adjust. Additionally, parents have had to shoulder the burden of ensuring that their children have obtained new text and reference books. And worst, these changes affect students' academic performances and parents suffer because their future academic dreams for their children are shattered. Parents must struggle to look for alternative means of supporting their children so they obtain skills and knowledge for preparation of future responsibilities and economic independence. Therefore, they are forced either to look for private schools, send their children to vocational training centers, or keep them around to support home chores. There are myriad effects as a result of decisions made by policy makers at higher levels which have an adverse effect on parents and their households.
It takes courage to be an agent of change in education. As parents are becoming increasingly involved in the education and training of their children, there is a possibility of using various approaches in affecting changes in their children and the schools in which their children are studying as well as at the policy level.
So, what happens when parents encourage each other? A strong school community focused on learning develops, to the benefit of all children. And all parents, regardless of their mastery of language, background, level of literacy or experience, have something to contribute to bring out positive changes.
Parents can become agents of change in education starting from their households. They need to instill in their children motivation toward learning, encouraging them to learn not just for passing exams but for acquiring skills and knowledge as well.
Parents can take time out of their busy schedules to follow the academic progress of their children in school. They can review their exercise books and talk with their children as well as visiting their teachers to obtain feedback.
Parents can also participate through attending school meetings and other functions such as 'open days,' which provide an opportunity for parents to obtain an understanding of school operations and participate in providing views or concrete criticisms on issues pertaining to school operations.
It is my strong belief that through such forums, parents can be very good monitoring agents of what is happening in school and can demand improved services for their children.
It should be noted that responsibilities come with these rights; as part of the duty of agents of change, parents should also be ready and motivated to fulfill their responsibilities.
I call upon parents in Tanzania to act as agents of change and promote home learning as well as advocating for improved education services at school. Building a strong community of families committed to learning benefits our children, and surrounds them with motivation and support while holding officials and authorities to task.
We have heard of several civil societies which motivate citizens' engagement in socioeconomic development issues. Recently, Twaweza and HakiElimu have stood out to be some of strongest civil societies which advocate for citizens' engagement in bringing changes in the social sectors including education.
Twaweza believes that citizens in East Africa can bring change themselves rather than waiting for governments, politicians, donors or NGOs to do it for them.
I call upon these civil societies to continue empowering parents in realizing their potential and responsibilities in ensuring improvement in education sector services. Parents should be empowered to learn how to understand their children’s educational needs. Then, they should learn how to engage with schools and teachers to understand better what the school is providing and how parents can assist in helping meet students' needs.
They also need to learn that they are not passive actors of instruction from the school administration, that they have a right to inquire further explanation on matters raised or decisions made by school administrations which affect their children or households, for example frequent financial contributions, utilization of development grants from the government, disciplinary actions and many more. Some school administrations are reluctant in cooperating with parents, and in such cases lobbying and advocacy are needed.
In the same tune, I strongly appeal to parents in Tanzania that we cannot continue to point fingers at the government about weaknesses in the education sector; we need to do something in our own capacity and surroundings starting from our households.
We need to build a strong parents’ power to influence changes and demand accountability of responsible authorities in providing quality education services to our children.
Take courage, it can be done if you play your part!