Academic journal article International Education Studies

Parents' Participation in Public Primary Schools in Botswana: Perceptions and Experiences of Headteachers

Academic journal article International Education Studies

Parents' Participation in Public Primary Schools in Botswana: Perceptions and Experiences of Headteachers

Article excerpt

Abstract

The idea of involving parents in the school system is universal and as old as the history and philosophy of education itself. This study investigated the public school headteachers' experiences and perceptions about the level of parental involvement in the public primary school system in Botswana. The theories guiding this study are that of Epstein's three spheres of influence and Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler's model of three level construct. A quantitative design through a medium of a questionnaire for data collection was employed. Out of a total 745 headteachers of public or government primary schools, 63.4% responded to the questionnaire. An important result of the study is that there is minimal parental support especially in rural and remote areas and in boarding primary school system in Botswana. Three recommendations of this study are, the creation of a parent education programme, a policy for the support and participation of parents of children in boarding schools, and further research to tap on the voices of the parents.

Keywords: school, family and community, parental participation, parents and teachers association, remote area dwellers, boarding primary school, parent education programme

1. Background

Botswana is a Southern African, land locked, semi-arid and middle-income country of 582 000 square kilometres, with a total sparsely spread population of 2 038 228 million people as at 2011 Population and Housing Census, growing at an annual rate of 1.9 % (Republic of Botswana, 2011). It has one of the lowest population densities in the world (3.2 inhabitants per square kilometer) and it is estimated to be the size of Kenya or France (Nyati-Ramahobo, 2004). Roughly, half of the population lives in urban areas and the other half in rural areas (Pridmore, 1995). It gained its independence in 1966 after 81 years of British protectorate. According to the education statistics of 2011, Botswana has 805 primary schools. Out of this number, 745 are public or government primary schools and 60 are private schools or what is referred to as English Medium schools. These are mostly found in urban and some semi-urban centres. Out of the 745 public schools, 27 schools in remote areas were running boarding system that admitted children who lived in settlements far away from the main economic centres and were hard to reach in terms of geographical terrain, due to poor communication and poorly developed infrastructures.

The idea of involving parents in the school system is universal and perhaps as old as the history and philosophy of the education system. The traditional education systems of Botswana were culturally based, driven by community leaderships and focusing on reproducing useful members of the societies. When pre-independence missionaries arrived in the Bechuanaland (Note 1) they worked with traditional leaders (chiefs and community elders) to mobilize parents for participation in their education agendas. They did so, because they found structures where societies and communities had education systems that were parent-driven. This approach was adopted and used during the colonial era. The colonial government worked closely with chiefs and missionaries to engage parents in building school infrastructure through self reliance strategies.

As soon as Botswana gained independence in 1965, local authorities (Note 2) were established and mandated to run primary education (which was then basic education) while the Ministry of Education (MoE) took responsibility for secondary and tertiary education. This was the first initiative to extend formal educational opportunity to every community in the country. Pansiri and Pansiri (2011) reveal that at that stage the country immediately adopted democracy, development, unity and self-reliance as the four national principles to guide the country's philosophy of nation building, or what is known as Education for Democracy. Pansiri and Pansiri further state that "within the philosophy of self-reliance, [Parents and Teachers Associations (PTA)] became a cornerstone in the impetus for educational development" (p. …

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