It’s no secret that active parental involvement in a child’s education enriches the learning experience. This year, one of our main areas of focus in the Education Outreach Program is to provide more opportunities for parents to partner with us and to concentrate on creating deeper, working relationships that ultimately set a standard of solidarity on which children can rely for support and encouragement in school.
Spearheading our efforts this year is Barnali Bhaduri, head teacher of our pre-primary department, who believes that “parent power and positive involvement in the school environment” plays an important role in the success of students. The school year began with a parent-teacher meeting that established the importance of mutual communication, students ‘attendance, general hygiene, and the school’s rules. According to Barnali, the meeting “gave them the idea of an inclusive school culture where their concerns can be equally respected and heard” and has resulted in such “great rapport with them that they make it a point to call up or personally inform us if there is any problem.”
Historically in the family networks of most of the children in the program, it has been (and continues to be) difficult for parents to become involved at the school due to work hours. The majority of parents are daily wage earners whose days offer little flexibility, and cannot leave work to attend school functions or help as much as they’d like at home due to other responsibilities. Keeping these challenges in mind, Barnali has been working with the parents to organize activities that are as mutually convenient as possible, to give them a chance to enjoy the experience of learning with their kids once every two months.
During the holiday of Raksha Bandhan on August 12th, a day that is usually dedicated to the declaration of commitment between siblings, Barnali organized the center’s first ever parent-student activity event with the help of the other teachers and administration, which gathered almost 90% of parents and their children! Pre-primary teachers Shital, Shampa, and Vaisali oversaw experiential learning and craft activities that helped parents to understand the daily learning process that occurs in an Ashraya classroom, and event aides Sonal, Shobha, and Rekha flitted from room to room, helping where needed. At the end of the event, parents, teachers, and students each made a symbolic commitment to their partnerships in education by tying rakhis, red bracelets, around each other’s wrists, as is traditional on Raksha Bandhan.
Reflecting on the event, Barnali shared that in her conversations with parents that “some of them admitted that this was the first kind of event in their life when they were so relaxed and enjoying the moment. We know what economical and mental trauma they undergo in day-to-day life so this event was like fresh air for them. Their smiles, their joy during the activity, parents interacting with each other, getting friendly…countless achievements were there during the event.” She continues to say that by involving parents in these learning experiences with their kids at the school, “they begin to see why their kids love to come to school and why they should be in school and how learning can be great fun”.
It is an overall aspiration that organizing events like this one will encourage parents to place a greater emphasis on the importance of their children attending school consistently and for more years than they may traditionally have in the past. By seeing the value that school adds to their children’s lives, parents can make these small incremental changes that will, over time, make a real, positive impact on their community.
We owe much gratitude to Barnali Bhaduri for her initiative, teachers Shital, Shampa, and Vaishali Gunjal for overseeing classroom activities, aides Sonal, Shobha, and Rekha for their assistance during the event, Bunty Pai and Mary Kay Hazel for their support, and Vidya for organizing all the resources needed for the event.
Thank you all for your hard work to make events like this possible!