OPINION: Parents must play their part in children’s education

Lukhanyo Mangona

This month Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga embarked on what is now her 10th annual ritual of releasing the matric results.

Amid all the well-deserved celebrations in the education community for an increase in matric pass rate, there was a sobering admission from the minister that there is a persistent problem with repetition throughout the system and drop-out after Grade 9.

The minister blamed this on problems associated with foundation phase teaching. Indeed the minister is right as this was confirmed by a team of researchers from the Stellenbosh University School of Economics as reported in one of the publications recently. Compounding this is the trend of declining numbers of pupils taking up gateway subjects particularly pure mathematics.

Last week Ms Motshekga opened her doors to a 12 million plus pupils. As parents who checked-in our children into classrooms, we will be well advised to keep this Department of Basic Education’s admission lingering in our minds.

We must honestly be asking ourselves, how is this hampering our educational investment to our children, both financially and academically.

Whether we are rich or poor, we make these financial investments in our children’s education so we can see them succeed academically.

The situation in our basic education no longer calls for passive parenthood of simply depositing your child into the classroom and folding your arms for the next 12 years. It calls for an active parent. We need to develop our own DIY methods that will run parallel to support the formal schooling. It is understandable that our lives are incredibly busy and that at times we have no luxury of time to spare.

With all this said, there are certain non-negotiables for us as parents regarding the education of our children. First among these is the socialisation of our children with books. Many studies have been drummed into our ears for many years now that our children can’t read competently. We need to do this from birth and make sure it continues as a social habit.

Addressing the Charlotte Maxeke and Sol Plaatje Ideas and Legacy Dialogue last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa emphasised the importance of getting our children to read.

It may have sounded like a cool thing to say but this is essential for the academic development of our children. If this is proving to be time consuming and tedious, please get your child into a book club when they are older. Another aspect of these non-negotiables is to build the numerical ability of your child early on. I know the mention of anything numerical can create an unnecessary anxiety. Of course we don’t have to be maths boffins to be able to help our children with this. Children just need to be able to make sense of numbers, and recognise shapes and patterns at the formative stages of their lives. Anything more complex than that can be easily outsourced.

When I started shopping for a school for my child in 2016, I looked for a school where I have people that I have rapport with. Granted I am being unfair because I have networks in education but the point I am making is that you need to find a school and cultivate a working relationship with the teachers there.

Once you find a school there needs to be ongoing support with daily homework and assignments. The minister also indicated that they will be re-introducing the standardised assessment for exiting each phase. This, together with the Western Cape Education Department’s systemic and school based evaluation provide us as parents with sign posts to monitor our children’s progress through schooling. If you experience problems in any of these assessments please seek answers from your child’s school promptly. At times, in our line of work, we come across parents who procrastinate in seeking answers with the hope that things will resolve themselves. Our advice is that you act immediately to ensure speedy resolution.

For those parents who can afford to get the services of a private tutor, please enlist one as soon as it is necessary. These days these services can be accessed at relatively affordable prices. It is never too early or late to get an extra hand but it is our advice to make sure that poor performance must not be left to persist for a prolonged period.

If you are going to embark on this journey to deal with the poor performance of your child you cannot be hasty about doing that. Remember you are spending your hard earned money and it is only fair that you get quality services.

You need to shop diligently for someone to cultivate full intellectual potential of your child, to mentor and to impart your child with critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

It is also important to have your hired hand work closely with the teachers in your child’s school.

Solutions to educational problems are not as simplistic as outlined above but there are basic guidelines we need to follow as parents to support the academic work done in the classrooms to ensure a brighter future for our children.

Mangona is the founder of MaTS Tutoring Services which specialises in mathematics, mathematical literacy and physical science tutoring. To get in touch, follow them on Facebook: Lukhanyo Mangona, or email: lmangona@gmail.com or call or WhatsApp 074 703 2081 or 078 404 8527.