Nelson Mandela once said, “Children will get the kind of education that their Parents want”. That is why today, every parent wants their child to go to the best schools, be taught by the best teachers and get the best grades. Quite frankly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Parents wanting the best for their children. The idea is that when children attend the best schools, they will become whole-rounded individuals, who are responsible and respectable members of society, capable of contributing to the wellbeing of the family. The intent is good. However, the responsibility is often misplaced.
Today’s Parents have become so engulfed with wanting their children to get into the best schools that they have neglected their role as teachers of their own children. Instead, they have entrusted the education of their children entirely in the hands of the school teacher. It is true that teachers are specially trained to impart knowledge but the education of our children goes beyond the ABCs. In fact, it goes beyond the school teacher and the standard school curriculum.
Quite often, Parents tend to blame teachers for the lower academic performance of children in school. But rarely do they take time to question their own contribution to the performance of the child. How many Parents, for instance, take time to teach their children well founded family values such as; self-respect, discipline, hard work, tolerance and punctuality?
There is also need in a liberal economy to respect both private and public property. How many Parents take time to find out who their children are mixing with, what programs are they watching on TV, the kind of books they are reading, what they are surfing on the internet? How many of us go to interact with teachers to our children to understand how the children are performing in school and what kind of support they require from the Parents.
It has also been noted with concern a trend by Parents of using the shopping malls as baby sitters for very young children especially over the weekend. It is the absence of guidance from Parents and society as a whole that has failed our children and this is manifested in early marriages, children dropping out of school, alcohol and substance abuse and generally young people coming into conflict with the law. Parents seem to be too busy trying to make ends-meat that they have turned schools into merely depositories of their children.
Involvement in the education of children goes beyond settling of tuition fees or getting our sons and daughters into the best schools. Parents should come to understand and realize that they are the first teachers to their own children. In the hands of Parents has been placed, both by society and nature, the sole responsibility of nurturing children into the norms and values of society.
In the Christian Bible, the duty of every parent is vividly stressed in the words of Solomon, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he shall not depart from it.” This language is positive. The training which Solomon enjoins is to direct, educate, and develop. In order for Parents and teachers to do this work, they must themselves understand “the way” the child should go. This embraces merely having knowledge of books. It takes in everything that is good, virtuous, righteous, and holy. In order to attain this object, the physical, mental, and religious education of children must have attention.
Parents should take lead to not only be “bread winners” but role models, companions and mentors to their children. Understandably, balancing the multiple demands of work and family is one of the biggest challenges for most families. However, this should not serve as an excuse for the mother to give up her duty of moulding her daughter into the woman society demands, into the hands of the maid. Nor should the father abandon his leadership role as the “head teacher” of the home.
I believe every parent is a lesson book to his or her child. The behaviours, habits, mannerisms, failures and accomplishments and all aspects of personality of the parent are topics in that book. It is up to you as a mother or father to decide what kind of lessons you want your children to draw from you and what lessons you are giving to them. Sociologists tell us that experiences within the family help determine the type of person an individual becomes. What children learn in school is meant for career practice but what they learn from home, from their parents, defines who they become in life.
National Assembly Debate (Thursday, 11 November 2010). Ministerial Statement by Hon. Siliya, Minister of Education.
White G. Ellen. Education.