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The role of parents

Parents are a key part in ensuring that learners receive a quality education. We know that what Numeric does wouldn’t be possible without the support of the parents of our learners. Through discussions with schools and parents, we have found that many parents feel ill-equipped to assist their children with school work, particularly with maths. Many feel that too much time has passed since they learnt Maths at school, or that the curriculum has changed too much. The legacy of apartheid makes this worse, as few parents completed Maths at a high school level. As a result, despite parents’ desire to ensure that their children receive a good education, they feel their role is to parent in the home, and not engage in their children’s school life.

Over the years, Numeric has learnt a lot about engaging with the parents of our learners and empowering them to be involved in their children’s school life. Here we share some of the processes and tools that we have found to be helpful.

1. Demonstrate practical educational tools to parents

We have found it helpful to show parents how to use some basic educational tools with their children, in a way that doesn’t require them to be familiar with school-level maths. Some tools we have found to be particularly helpful are multiplication and division flashcards. These are small cards with sums on them, that learners have to solve as fast as possible, competing against another learner/sibling/friend to collect the most cards. The answers are on the back, and it doesn’t require a lot of time (even playing for 5 minutes every day helps!). Another tool that is useful is playing cards. Show parents how to use maths in playing cards (e.g. having to slap the pile that adds up to more), and encourage them to play maths-related games at home with their children. Of utmost importance here is that you demonstrate how to play, parents need be able to visualise themselves doing this. Simply handing them the flashcards or asking them to use playing cards means that most parents are unlikely to try them out. 

2. Maintain close communication with parents

Check in regularly with parents beyond the typical school communication means. At Numeric, this means calling parents if their child misses a class, if there is a behavioural issue, or if the child has been performing well in class. This keeps the parent informed regularly about their child and allows them to get involved in encouraging them to attend and actively participate. It also helps to build additional accountability and support for the after-school program. 

Another means of communication is using messages and letters. For any announcements, notify parents via letter and sms messaging in their home language. To make sure that all parents are receiving messages, check regularly that the numbers are still the same. This constant communication also allows the parent to understand that their participation is valuable to the programme.

3. Communicate in parents’ mother-tongue languages

Try to communicate with parents in their home language or a language familiar to them (e.g. isiXhosa in Khayelitsha and Mfuleni, and Afrikaans in Mitchells Plain). Where this is not possible, make an effort in mother tongue (e.g. greetings and requesting permission to speak in English). 

What are some other tools you have found helpful when engaging with parents?