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Total Parenting: The Family<>School<>Community Nexus

The ECD life-cycle is, unfortunately, not a sole dominion of parents, family or households. Parents have to let lovely ones out into ‘strange’ hands of someone else at very tender ages. This is true however loving, caring or possessing parents may be. Children are normally let out to school and the larger community where they live and interact for many hours. This builds on the family-based ECD foundation in a ‘family-school-community’ nexus. Parents of deaf children in Morogoro and poor parents with normal children, in Temeke, weigh out many give and take facts before they risk and ‘giving out’ a child to nearby pre-school. Available resources at Kilakala Unit in Morogoro might have soothed parents to bring out deaf children to school.

Photo of John V. Kimario
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The precious ECD life-cycle is, unfortunately, not a sole dominion of the parents, the extended family or the household alone.  At a point in time, parents have to let the lovely child go out into ‘strange’ hands of someone else!  As one reads through the postings, the school, as an institution, presides over others as a receiving institution.  At very tender ages parents have to let a child go to school. They leave it out there for many hours and even days. Someone else not even a relative, just an institution takes over, to top up on what parents have started in their child’s ECD cycle. As parents accept and wield to the reality, of ‘giving a child out’   it is an approval to the need for  a ‘total parenting’ approach which cuts across parental, family, and cultural bonds to institutional, and give way to community care.
 
Just recall your first day at school.  Can you recall how long did you cry? If you are a mother/father, how did you feel leaving your dear son/daughter to that day care teacher? (The    video clip attached shows how young Arafat could not let the mother go and Mama Arafat could not let Arafat alone at Stamford Community Nursery in Dar es Salaam Tanzania, 2012).

Given such strong bonding...how best can a global platform like this one, pool the much needed resources in support of community schools in low income communities, to build the necessary capacity to take up this noble role (child-family-community bond) in more or less similar proportions?

Unfortunately, to the dismay of many parents, the ‘new parent’, i.e. the school, the village government, individuals and communities out there; do not necessarily possess much of the aspired soft and hardware resources mix to warrant family or household approval. Parents may decide to wait for better chances!


 A child born in low income communities is unfortunately hit twice.  Both the family and the community school are not best resourced to adequately provide fully for their children’s ECD needs. 
 
..How best can we create at least a single successful school resources sharing link between resource rich communities inside and or outside Tanzania to community schools in dire need in Tanzania? I study web content and related OpenIDEO platform content on this site and link to field realities from the two community pre-school units.  The Kilakala Unit for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, a government unit in Morogoro Municipal and Stamford Nursery school in Sub urban Temeke, Dar es Salaam. 
 
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Attracting Parents to a Sub-urban Nursery School
 
Many factors intercede to convince a parent to ‘let go’ a child to a community/village  nursery or pre-school.  It’s more than individual’s convincing power or Government policy.
 
 I went out into two sub-urban areas in search for real life examples in low income communities. I visited and immersed myself into Kilakala Unit for deaf children in Morogoro Municipality and  Stamford Nursery School, Uwazi suburban Area of Makangarawe ward in Temeke district, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
 
 
CASE NUMBER ONE:Kilakala Unit for Deaf Children
At the deaf unit, I observed three teachers (Mr. Fikiri Kassim - Class Assistant, also deaf; Ms.Mariki and Ms. Urassa Trained Montessori facilitator)  at work in a more or less Standard Community [government] pre-school.  Parents made bold decisions, to bring children with special needs. Pupils study for six hours. The unit is partly sponsored by Dutch benefactors. Teachers are government employees. A hybrid of community-government-Donor unit.
 
At this unit, there are two trained teachers in Montessori principles, and one Class assistant (Mr. Fikiri who is also deaf, and can use Swahili sign language).  The unit is relatively well equipped with Montessori gear for various learning activities.
 
It was very encouraging to learn that, Mr. Fikiri was a student in the same school where he managed to complete his primary school.    
 
He had vague ideas about his childhood dreams.  Although he practices photography, He started doing this because he was given a very good digital camera by sponsors who also support the unit.
 
Looking at the rest of the pre-school children,  most of them were happily interacting amongst themselves and the teachers using sign language, although some are still struggling to master the complete set of signs.
 
The story of Rahimu Kassim, a deaf class assistant at Kilakala Unit for deaf children.
 
1.What did you want to be when you were young?
It took long to communicate this. His Dreams came very late in life.  Possibly due to communication failures,  between parents and children. Or general lack of interest to follow up on deaf childre’s activities, likes and dislikes? Or due to parent over protection of a child with special needs?
 
Rahimu:Rahim had the idea that he could not do or make it. Just coming and going back home…just learning?
Teacher:We guide the students as they reach class five and above.
Teacher:Very few, only one I have seen with excellent drawing skills from very early ages. Even Rahim had the same (drawing) interest but unfortunately, no one assisted Rahim through systematically to make it as an artist…
 
Rahim:I started photography because a benefactor gave me an excellent digital camera.  I now use it to take pictures for people, functions and the deaf unit.
 
Rahim is also a class assistant. He assists class teachers with children in communication using sign language. He can prepare food for them and oversee them in drawing and in out of class activities.
 
To teacher: Can children under 5 years demonstrate unique skills as they use Montessori activities and materials?
 
Yes. To figure out ones’ dream we have to observe them as they play, interact with others, learn and easiness at use of signs and at drawing exercises.
 
We are lucky that our class is fairly well equipped, which is not the case with many village and sub urban community schools.  Even trained teachers are very few in the community.
 
CASE NUMBER TWO: Stamford Nursery School in Sub-urban area of Uwazi.
 
This is a  case of parents who opted to bring children to join school in this suburban area of Temeke district in Dar es salaam Tanzania. It is a typical example  of many pre-school and nursery schools mushrooming in suburbs.   In this 2012 clip from Stamford Nursery shelter, Arafat is brought to Stamford nursery shelter by the Mother.(Mama Arafati).  The mother and teachers are trying hard to ‘break the mother-child bond’ and let Arafat (the child) ‘go’ to a different set of hands…the teacher, the school unit, the other children and staff at Stamford Nursery Unit and, (Mr. Dismas, Ms. Felista , a care taker). And to the many people out there his way between school and home in the neighborhoods.
 
The schools and teachers and significant others to which/whom parents entrust  children may not be the best out of what they’d like to compared to the love and material provisions given at home.  Lets assess situations in schools here and find out how best, through this platform we can help to improve education resources  at community schools in search of near total parenting through the agency of the school…community nexus.
 
In 2012 I took a very bold step by setting out to start a Community pre-school to cater for the education needs of children in my neighborhoods, the sub-urban community at Uwazi  Area in Makangarawe ward, Temeke Municipality in Dar es Salaam City – in Tanzania.
I could not wait any longer to make this dream come true.  I felt strongly that, children around should get a place to come together, play,  share a maize meal (porridge), sing learn to read and write as part of their preparations to join formal primary education at government schools.  Instructions would be in Swahili language.
 
As I keep struggling with the idea, I push myself to advertise the idea to neighbors, by raising posters on walls and parents got interested.  They agreed to bring kids at least for 4 hours. This is from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon.
 
At Stamford  parents register 4  to5 year kids after conviction. In 2012, I would visit individual households to find if mothers would  like to register a child at Stamford. Mostly, moms said ”…bado kidogo… and or...hajafikia”  meaning “…not yet” ..and or ”… just a bit…it is not yet ready...” meaning I have to wait a bit.  May be wait for it to grow a little bigger? It was not clear what mothers meant. On surface it could mean…not yet discussed and agreed/allowed by the father?...or I don’t have the fees?.., or I don’t have money for the uniform?...or I love my child so much I can’t let it go out so early to other people…? …or the school is not worth my child? What makes a mother let or not let a child attend to a community nursery School in low income communities? How can such motivation be supported?
 
It was not easy for pioneers to take bold steps and bring a child to me.  I decided to prepare uniforms for pioneers.  I decided on the uniform and got a tailor who made them for my pioneers.  I gave the uniforms to neighbors with a 4 years girl (Amida) and 3 years boy (Arafat). These were motivated to join the ‘pre-school’ in February 2012. They became my pioneer class.  I named the school ‘Stamford Nursery School’ ; simply because I had to make use of existing large classrooms, used by Chelsea FC fans to watch English Premier League matches in the evening. The fans preferred to call the area, and specifically these two big classes ‘Stamford Bridge Arena’ . 
 
In 2013 and 2014, Parents kept on bringing in more and more children at the now Stamford Nursery School.  As time went by, I started facing many challenges on how to improve and maintain a high quality Pre-school unit which would be accepted by the community, registered by government and prosper as a fully fledged community pre-school for the Uwazi Area sub-urban community.
 
I dream to turn the Stamford Community pre-school unit in to a fully fledged pre-school based on standard Montessori methodology.  I strongly trust that the approach will benefit children in unearthing their dreams over time.  At least Stamford unit will be of help to poor community members of Uwazi because it is not easy for them to register their children to any Montessori based or English –medium schools because they are very expensive. 
 
.How best can we create at least a single successful school resources sharing link between resource rich communities inside and or outside Tanzania to community schools in dire need in Tanzania? I study web content and related OpenIDEO platform content on this site and link to field realities from the two community pre-school units.  The Kilakala Unit for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, a government unit in Morogoro Municipal and Stamford Nursery school in Sub urban Temeke, Dar es Salaam. 

 

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Photo of Meena Kadri

Thanks for all of you provocations, details and photo documentation here, John. You've certainly given everyone in our community a lot to think about. The nexus of families + school + community is indeed an important one and we really appreciate you bringing it up in such detail through a Tanzanian lens.

Photo of John V. Kimario

Thanks Meena. I pray a kind of working network in support of ECD in low income families and communities is gradually evolving through this challenge. Stay blessed.