Parents’ involvement in the lives of their children is said to be essential to their academic development and other aspects of their lives. Some experts told Funmi Ogundare that good communication and active participation in parents’ forum in schools will help parents boost their children’s socio-emotional well-being

Master Kunle Odulaja (not real name) is a brilliant pupil in one of the low income private schools in Lagos State. He went to school one day and started stooling and vomiting, but for the intervention of the headmistress who quickly took him to the hospital where he was diagnosed of food poisoning, he would have died in the process.

Another pupil from the same school, Miss Sola Mohammed, was discovered to have had her uniform burnt from ironing.  She was summoned to the headmistress’s office and after questioning, it was revealed that she was not wearing underwear of any sorts. The headmistress had to buy her a new set of underwear and directed the school tailor to make her a new uniform.

These two scenarios, among other issues, which were traced to neglect or nonchalant attitude on the part of parents, prompted the headmistress to call the attention of the school’s management to have a parents’ forum where parents’ attitude towards their children would be discussed, not only in terms of academics, but also in other areas.

Parents’ contributions to their children’s socio-emotional development, apart from their academics may be one of the least controversial statements in the Nigerian education sector; however, their involvement can make a huge difference.

Research has shown that parents’ involvement has been more focused on children’s achievement, with less attention to social and emotional domains of their development, as many parents are caught in a vicious circle in the battle for survival which leaves little or no room to monitor their children.

The headmistress of a low income private school in Lagos, who prefers anonymity, expressed concern that parents are leaving their roles to the teachers and the schools, adding that most times, the communication line between children and their parents is poor which makes the children to shy away from discussing their challenges freely with their parents.

“Some of these parents are just nonchalant; for instance if I have a girl-child, I should know when she is menstruating, when her underwear is due to be changed and when she needs to wear a bra; many of them don’t know.

“We are in an environment where parents complain that they have to leave home very early for work in the morning and come back late in the evening. I usually tell them if you continue like that, why are you struggling? Is it not because of this child? If you make all the money and the child is no longer there, what do you do?”

To ensure that parents get involved in their children’s socio-emotional development and academics, she said her school had to draft a newsletter about activities in the school through their children inviting them to come for a parents’ forum.

“We call parents’ meeting when we see that children are not regular in school, when they come to school and they don’t write assignments and notes, or when they come to school with tattered uniforms, or exhibit vices. Sometimes you see sick children coming to school, their parents would have gone out and we will have to take them to the health centre. When they return, we tell them about the issues at hand. These things have drastically reduced and parents now check their children. With the parents’ forum, they are able to address a lot of these challenges.”

Other schools, including the low income private schools promote parents’ involvement ranging from encouraging good communication, school meetings such as Parent Teachers’Association or parents’ forum as the case may be, volunteering and fundraising to provide parents with home-based learning activities to assist with their children’s homework.

The Director General, Office of Education Quality Assurance, Lagos, Mrs. Ronke Soyombo, said her office has been involved in sensitisation workshops for schools and parents to ensure that schools help parents to enhance their children’s academic and socio-emotional development.

“We have been sensitising a lot of our parents and parents’ forum is a key thing that we are looking at to support and motivate them and to talk on why they have to support their children. Parents should rise to the occasion, don’t just leave your job for the schools, drivers, or the lesson teachers, we all have to take a part because there is no best teacher compared to the mother of the child.

It is high time we priotised and gave the best to the child. It is high time we also visited schools. You don’t just dump your children there, but go there to see what they are doing,” she further counseled.

She added that her office had to create quality assurance for the low income private schools by putting measures in place that will enhance teaching and learning for the benefit of the children.

“At the moment, we have put a lot of measures in place whether it is a school at the riverine area or at Ikoyi, the standards remain the same because it is the core teaching and learning that we are talking about. You will be amazed, some schools can look all dressed up but there will be no core teaching and learning going on there.

The Director of Funbi Primary and Secondary School, Ajamgbadi, Lagos, who charges a tuition fee of N10,000 for secondary school and between N3,000 and N5,000 for primary schools, Mr. Abiodun Owolana, said three weeks into resumption, his school usually holds a PTA meeting where they talk to parents on what they need to know concerning their children and what they are supposed to do which will be in line with the school so that they can work together to bring up quality children.

Owolana, who is also the Public Relations Officer of the Association for Formidable Educators (AFED), an umbrella body of low income schools in Lagos, said, “we also involve parents in their children’s homework, so we get the feedback from the parents. We know that the children cannot do it alone because they need the assistance of the parents, so from there we know that the parents are also playing their own role.”

He said his school has also been providing free education to children of parents who are unable to pay their tuition fees to eradicate illiteracy in the society. “For the parents who are unable to meet up with the fees, we take it up upon ourselves. I have almost 10 pupils that are not paying, the effort is aimed at eradicating illiteracy.”

The Director of Anselm Private School, Iba, whose school charges almost N6,000 per term, Mr. Anselm Nwosu, said the school also holds PTA meeting twice a term, “and most times, we communicate through text messages such that if there is any complain, we have someone that is incharge of the complaints from parents and we always make sure we address them.”

A proprietress, Mrs. Temitope Olukayode, said her school charges N6,000 as tuition fee per term, which is within the reach of almost every parents to be able to educate as much pupils as possible.

She said her school doesn’t allow learning to end with the pupils, adding that it creates a forum that would enable parents to know what the school is doing.

“We try to educate them and invite them to a workshop where we interact. We go the extra mile to make them realise the importance of giving their children good education and taking care of their socio-emotional needs.”

She said within its locality, there has been an increase in pupil enrolment into her school and parents who have been nonchalant towards their children’s education are changing their attitude. “We also monitor the homework we give to the children. For instance when we give homework to the children, some parents will write for them, but we have seen situations where there is child/parent collaboration and in such a situation the parents will come to the school to explain where the child is lagging behind. It has helped us to know whether the child is doing well or not.”

The Director of Samtop Nursery and Primary School, Ogudu, Mrs. Temitope Osigbosin, charges a minimum of N5,000 to 10,000 per term.
She expressed concern that many parents are too busy to have time for their children due to the nature of their jobs, but that her school acts as a second home for the children.

“We hold PTA meetings to let parents know what we want from them, we also have some parents who wouldn’t even come for the meeting. We call them on phone and we advise them that as a parent, the money they are working for will be wasted if they don’t take care of their children. We have a book that we use to monitor the daily progress and activities of the children so when we observe any problem, we get the parents and the school involved.”

The Chief Executive Officer of SchoolKits, Mrs. Temilola Adepetun, is of the view that parenting is not something that is thought, but expressed concern that, “a lot of parents go out in the morning and come back home several hours later so they don’t know what is happening and what their children do during the day.”

She said it is important for parents to be involved in the daily life of their children, adding that weekends are precious time to be spent together to enable parents teach their children values, read to them and correct their diction.

“These are the things that parents can do and because it is a rat race entirely especially in Lagos, it is very difficult to survive. There are so many challenges before parents can pay house rent and school fees; school fees are not cheap anymore, it is really challenging. A lot of parents are working very hard, they don’t have enough time for their children; this is a shame!
Adepetun stressed the need for parents to create time for their children and deposit a lot of knowledge, possible values and ethics in them.

“Let them know their right from wrong and you can only do all that if you spend time with them. The school cannot do it all, the parents and the schools have to work together.