Friday, 30 September 2011

World Teachers’ Day

October 5th is marked as World Teachers’ Day. This year’s commemoration will focus on closing the gender gap in the schools and recruiting quality teachers. UNESCO estimates that the world needs an additional 2 million female teachers to reach gender equality. Furthermore, female teachers will also attract more girl students. Young girls, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, constitute the majority of children not in school. According to the UNESCO article, 2/3rds of all illiterate adults in sub Saharan Africa are women. The region, alone, needs an additional 1 million teachers to provide every child quality education.
The solution is not to open more schools, as the article pointed out. There is a growing pace of school construction in sub-Saharan Africa. The problem is further aggravated by lack of trained and competent teachers. Having well trained experts, eager to teach and competent is what will solve this problem. But none of this is possible without parental involvement. Without parents as primary educators, acknowledged and respected as such, global education will continue to be in peril. It is unpardonable that after so many years of celebrating World Teachers’ Day, UNESCO continues to ignore the contributions of the home schooling movement to education.
Let us be reminded that homeschooling came about as a reaction to the dilemma. Parents, in response to the problems their children were facing in the schools, sought a solution. Their resolution was immediate and on a local scale; but more can happen if we all answer the call and do something about the setback.
As one of the fastest growing forms of private education, home education provides the much needed wo(man) power needed. Although hardly acknowledged in the global discourse on education, home schooling the primary years, helps tremendously in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Another UNESCO report stated that if each child had access to quality primary education, the other years were almost guaranteed to be a success. The early years of education are the most needed foundation that most of the world’s children do not have access to; especially African girl children.
Homeschooling parents are providing what is much needed in education; parental involvement. The schools cannot do it without quality teachers. Quality teachers cannot do it without parents on board. It truly takes a village and it begins from home.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Why home school?

I’ve been bombarded by questions from parents about home schooling ever since I appeared on one of Ghana’s television programs. Contrary to the assumptions, there is a growing number of Ghanaians already home schooling their children or are very interested in beginning. The reasons are the same as to why any other parent would need to take back their children’s education: failing and expensive schools, lack of trained teachers, bullying from teachers, bullying from other children, lack of materials, lack of motivated teachers, etc. The list is endless.
People assumed such parents would be western educated or had lived abroad. However, I was sought out by market women, seamstresses and other professionals. The seamstress wondered if her 5 year old should be reading; the school had not begun teaching her. She feared asking the teachers and did not want to appear “too know.” The market woman’s child is always sick. He spends more time in the hospital than in school. She had no idea what the school’s curriculum was or what they had intended on teaching her 8 year old. It was bad enough her 8 year old was not reading, but she also did not know basic mathematics. The gate men at my friend’s house wondered if his sons would ever go to college. He lost all hope. He did not see how they would go to a university from the school they currently attended. The school had no windows or bathrooms. The children either swept the compound or weeded the grass on a daily basis. Asked what he wanted from the school that he was not getting, he answered, education. Well, “why you don’t say something?” I asked. “If you say something, they will treat your children bad,” he answered. It is better to stay silent and not think about the problem.
I was surprised to find out just how bad the educational system here was. A World Bank report blamed the poor education system on teacher absenteeism. Ghanaian teachers spend 76 days out of 196 in the classroom. And when they are in the classroom there is no guarantee that they are teaching. According to the parents and students I spoke to, they are working the children like their own private work force. Students, instead of being taught, are running errands, cooking, cleaning, going to market, ironing and working farms.
To make matters worse, parents are completely dis-empowered. They fear the teachers and fear making demands of the schools. Instead of doing something about the problem, many are silently waiting for someone else to begin the revolution. I guess that might be me.

Monday, 12 September 2011

ADEA and UNESCO launch Bouba and Zaza and “Childhood Cultures”, an intergenerational African series of children’s books

"The book series addresses the glaring shortage of children’s books adapted to African contexts. A study conducted in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Togo on child-rearing resources available to parents shows that children from 0 to 4 years of age generally have no books at home, especially in rural areas.
International research findings show that appropriate food, medical care and intellectual stimulation during the early years of life improve children’s aptitude and learning capability throughout their lives. Such research also indicates that the availability of books in the family environment has an incidence on children’s level of educational attainment and that children who have many books at home stay in school about three years longer than those who do not."

One D and you’re out!

Ghana’s educational system is one of the world’s worst. The majority of children do not have access to education. Among those who do, only a small portion ever make it to university. In fact, only 6% of Ghana’s 23 million are in the tertiary institutions. A new policy threatens to reduce that number even further.
Unbeknownst to many, Ghana’s National Accreditation Board and the Ghana Education Service have passed a new policy which denies students with a grade of D in any subject in the national exam access to university. This does not mean an average of a D throughout the student’s academic career. According to the Daily Graphic, such students, as well as mature students who did not obtain a high school degree will be kept from entering the university.
The problem is even worse than what was reported. The majority of the students tend to fail or obtain Ds in English, math and science. They do so because Ghana does not have enough trained teachers or relevant materials to prepare the students in those subjects. Why should students be penalized when they are victimized?
This policy will make education in Ghana even more elitist. Elitist here does not mean better, but rather limiting the majority. Only a very small group of parents will be able to afford expensive tutoring services which may or may not make any difference. An even smaller number will be able to export their children to other countries for tertiary education. It is clear how this policy will further increase the brain drain.
Why would Ghanaian policy makers adopt such a policy when the education system is already stuck between a rock and a hard place? Because educating your children is not their top priority; it’s yours.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Why this blog?

This blog is to center the home schooling movement within the global discourse on education. People often think home schooling parents are on the periphery as Midwestern Christian Americans keeping the schools from teaching their children evolution. However, that is not the main story. There are homeschooling parents, like myself, living in Africa, working outside of the home, Muslims and or non religious. We want to teach our children because the schools have failed. We have taken back education because we cannot afford not to.
Parents are the first and natural educators of their children. Educational standards have failed, partly because they have allowed it to. However this is not the end of that story. The other half has to do with efforts from the home schooling movement. Their efforts have rung the alarm that something can be done from each individual; beginning in the home.
I am particularly pleased with the global efforts of UNESCO and UNICEF. This blog will follow their educational initiatives and policies. I will also comment and suggest ways forward for parents on the fence on home education.
I am a parent, a historian and an educator. However, becoming a parent has made me more aware of the failing educational standards around the world. Becoming a parent has also made me appreciate the UN’s efforts to curb the falling standards. This blog is to highlight the fact that home schooling is central to solving the problem. Parents must take back education. This blog is also a guide for other parents wanting to reclaim education, but not sure how to proceed. Parents need to be primary teachers again because leaving it up to the teachers is not working. It takes a village, and a village begins from home.

Waiting for Superman