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things that failed in the school were:
1. Feeding Scheme
2. Subject choices of the learners
3. Rebuilding the school
4. Appointment of extra teachers by the SGB
5. Improving the academic performance of the learners Yet in more instances the teachers end up taking most decisions. The principal is not content with this for “at this day of democracy” he believes that they need more stakeholder involvement. The principal recalls an incident when he had just arrived at the school. With his HODs they noticed three learners in two different classes who had learning disabilities. They invited the parents to school because they wanted to suggest these children be sent to special schools.
Interestingly, the parents in the SGB found time to reflect about their involvement in school management. They also contemplated in strategies of how to lure parents to school activities including the children’s learning. The parents appeared to have common solutions to their challenges. They were interviewed using focus group interviews of seven participants each. The initial questions in each of the interviews tried to ask parents about ways of confronting the challenges of poverty. It appeared that many parents were resigned to their positions stating that many of them could hardly do anything to help their schools. Many were women who have never worked, waiting for money from male family members who work in cities. Some were grandparents of the children.
There was general consent: parents want to know what teachers expect of them. Some were saying that they could sense disrespect from some members of staff. He recalled once when as parents they went to a school to talk to a few teachers who had a habit of coming to school reeking of liquor. Some teachers, including the culprits questioned the parents’ presence and qualifications to be judges in the case. Yet despite these hindrances, the parents stated that they would all like to work with the school management teams if their involvement would make the management of the school better. The parents in the sample discussed ways in which the schools could enhance their involvement in management of the schools. These were also raised in the three quarterly meetings that were convened in Rose Primary, Nyibiba High and Lilac High schools. There were a number of suggestions that the parents raised that would make the parent-schools relationship better
and effective. From the sample the main suggestions to come were:
(a) that school management should use parents more. The participants maintained that at the beginning of each year, the school management team should call parents and discuss their role. Linked to this, was the idea of ensuring that schools should become more inviting to parents by being more helpful to parents and this includes running special projects for parents.
(b) that parents could be used to a certain extent in educating the learners. The parents were mainly concerned about the growing drug usage and abuse among learners. They were also concerned about promiscuity among learners. In one of the schools, there was a maximum of four learners who were pregnant.
(c) the parents also discussed the needs to instil certain moral values on learners. Among these was the need to “go back” to old age values as communalism and respecting every adult in the society. The parents believed that with teachers they could play a role in restoring high standards to schools by using what they called “African culture” – ubuAfrika, as they termed it. Values such as ubuntu would restore the sense of good schools in rural areas. It seemed that many perceived the absence of good values in schools and not poverty was among the main causes of parental aloofness from schools.
(d) the parents also maintained that school meetings could be used to address a number of issues relevant to rural families than merely on “school matters” only. Teachers and learners can use the time to “educate” the community in various aspects. The parents stated that if schools cannot address their way of life, they cannot be seen as being useful.
(e) the last main suggestion was suggested more by the larger parent meetings observed. The parents added that rural schools will never function effectively if traditional leadership is not involved in governing the schools.
DISCUSSION OF THE FINDINGSThe findings show the complexities of parental involvement in rural schools. The parents have shown that it is not only poverty that defeats their role in public schools. The parents’ suggestions also became a positive contribution to the study’s findings. Even rural parents who are usually seen as apathetic to school involvement can make huge contributions when given this opportunity. The discussions will be discussed under three
themes that were teased from the participants’ contributions:
1. The poor parents and schools
2. Forging links between schools and community: a question of relevance
3. The case for the African Indigenous Knowledge Systems (AIKS) in rural school management
4. Traditional leadership and school governance
THE POOR PARENTS AND SCHOOLS
The principals of all the five schools related that their parents are not involved in the education of their children; that they hardly help in school management. In fact, literature has proven that parental involvement in education defeats the attainment of a democratic and egalitarian society (Lareau, 1989; McGrath & Kuriloff, 1999; Fine, 1993). The involvement of parents in education is supposed to ensure that all parents become part of their education’s children, it embraces egalitarian objectives.
It was apparent in this investigation that many parents did not think that they had the necessary social capital to partake in school decision making. Parents in rural schools have no power hence no voice in the education of their children. Even if these parents did not like the product they were getting from the rural schools they have less choice. According to Hirschman’s seminal work, Exit, voice and loyalty (1970), consumers have a right to choose any of the options open to them in the markets. If they are not satisfied by a product, they exit and choose somebody else; sometimes they might choose to be loyal and continue with the supplier. However, when they really feel that they can change the service provider they voice out their despondency with the product and this is the voice option. According to Hirschman (1970) customers exercise choice when they want an improved situation or when they are dissatisfied with the current one.
Forging links between schools and community: a question of relevance There is some research that shows that strong links between schools and communities have a potential of enhancing bonds between parents and schools (Rugh & Bossert, 1998; McDonough & Wheeler, 1998).
McDonough and Wheeler (1998) conducted a study in the rural Thailand and discovered how links gave parents meaning of skills and why they could see schools as part of the villages. The parents in the study maintain that if links between schools and communities could be strengthened parents could see the need of involving themselves. Parents need to see the relevance of schools in their lives as highlighted by the participants in the study. The Thailand project displayed another good example of collaboration between the school and community in social forestry. This SFEP project was an attempt to transform the school-community relations.
The learners were involved more in studies of village problems that were related to forest management issues.
The communities where the study took place were all near forested areas. In face of slow destruction or deforestation, there had been rigorous efforts by villagers to preserve the forests. It was in these villages that the fifth and sixth grade students visited communities to ask questions about forest related problems and village history. The learners also studied plants and animals as part of their classroom projects. Villagers were very helpful in guiding the learners who were studying the indigenous species. Having gathered information on forest related problems and village history; the learners reported their findings to the villagers. In this project the learners and teachers were a powerful source of change. The parents saw the school as their place as well.
Similar to this was the Escuela Nueva in Colombia. to improve curriculum and emphasize active learning and self-pacing.
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JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL AND INSTRUCTIONAL STUDIESIN THE WORLD February 2015, Volume: 5 Issue: 1 Article: 04 ISSN: 2146-7463 The case for the African Indigenous Knowledge Systems (AIKS) in rural school management Hoberg (2004) writes of how principals fail to apply AIK using what they ‘have’ rather than what they are ‘given’. “School principals in the rural areas are aware of AIK, and yet do not use it” (Hoberg 2004: 41). Msila (2009) supports Hoberg when he argues for the need to use ubuntu philosophy in school leadership. It promotes solidarity, collaboration and respect among the people in the organisation of the school. Ubuntu philosophy also belongs to the AIK that Hoberg writes about. The parents stressed their need for a welcoming climate that would enable them to work well in schools. While the latter can be found also in Western models such as shared leadership, participative leadership, AIK have these entrenched in its core; it is part of humanity.
The principals should play an important role when they employ African models because they would be instilling trust and acceptance through their leadership.
Furthermore, Hoberg (2004:42) states that principals have a huge role in the fostering of a professional school climate, “the significance of good public relations, collaborative decision-making, the importance of restoring a concern for moral values in the school and, ultimately, the use or neglect of AIK”. What the parents in the study want is a return of ubuntu philosophy in schools. Msila (2009:71) states that the African village is based on mutual trust, respect and care. Furthermore, he cites Khoza who opines that ubuntu has practical implications for the workplace. Creative cooperation, empathetic communication and team work are among the most important qualities. This can be used by dysfunctional schools such as those in this study. Parents want this trust, respect and mutual concern. Many transformational principals will experiment with these African models, among other things. Therefore, it was significant that parents would suggest that they would want to revert to African models of leadership. Ubuntu management style is bottom-up rather than top-down.
Therefore, while ubuntu values can help in enhancing the morality among learners; it will improve leadership.
Mbigi (1995) points out that ubuntu management is based on trust and morality, sharing (interdependence), cooperation and participation.
It is not surprising to discover that the parents would prefer the use of AIK. These models are accommodating to all people irrespective of their socio economic status. Parents in the study fear involvement and commitment in schools because they see these as Western structures based on expertise and high formal education. The African models are likely to minimise fear and suspicion. Qualities such as solidarity, same purpose, and communalism minimise mistrust that is evident in many dysfunctional schools. Therefore, whilst the parents raised the African models mainly to enhance the children’s morality, this will be a boon to school management and leadership as well. In the hands of an effective and progressive school management team, the African models can be crucial to making schools work and ensuring that the parents are part of the team.
Linked to this idea is the participants’ recommendation that traditional leadership should be made part of the school governance team.
Traditional leaders and school governance The aspect that the parents raised which is the role of traditional leaders is very crucial to school management and leadership in rural areas. The headmen and the chiefs are respected members in many rural communities.
In many rural areas the communities might still be following the traditional leadership hierarchy and schools cannot overlook this fact. Schools that want to achieve effectiveness will not leave behind the influence of these traditional leaders. Mbokazi and Bengu (2009:50) cite Cronje who emphasizes the role that traditional
leaders can play in the provision of quality education in South Africa. Mbokazi and Bengu (2009:58) contend:
The roles that traditional leadership plays in school governance include monitoring, supervision of the School Governing Body (SGB) activities and participating in the safety and security Committees. There are three types of membership that traditional leadership have on SGBs. The one is that of full membership of the SGB. As full members of the SGB traditional leaders perform normal functions like any member of this body.
study highlighted the need to include headmen, they wanted to legitimise the role of SGBs by involving traditional leaders. Whilst the history of traditional leaders can be perceived in various ways as one moves from one area to another, there are still many people who respect their role in rural societies. Rural district officials and school principals who have a vision of school success will not leave traditional leadership behind as they build collaboration in these communities.
The crucial aspect in this study was to see the parents as active participants in research. Usually research on (poor) parents usually perceives them as passive subjects who hardly have a voice to determine their destiny.