Community involvement in schools: is the QLTC the solution?

| June 24, 2014 | 1 Comment

By L.H. Modisane

The Quality of Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC)1 was launched in 2009 as acknowledgement that the education of our children can no longer be left only in the hands of education officials, but should be a societal matter. The campaign takes its cue from the ancient African proverb, ‘It takes the whole village to raise a child,’ which implies that the whole community has an essential role to play in the growth and development of its children.

The QLTC campaign aims to achieve this goal through the mobilisation of a wide range of stakeholders to participate actively in school activities and contribute meaningfully to the education of their children. It is a widely held view that if parents, unions, business, religious leaders, traditional leaders and other stakeholders can cooperate, performance in our schools can significantly improve.2

The QLTC: What are the issues at school level? Currently, the campaign is not unfolding to expected levels in our South African schools, where it matters most. Reasons advanced by schools are varied and include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Ignorance: Most people are not aware that a lively democracy and a growing economy depend on an educated citizenry and a skilled workforce. As a result, they do not see the need to participate in school activities, viewing education as the obligation of teachers and those associated with its administration. This attitude is more pronounced in communities with high levels of poverty and illiteracy. In some instances, the school principal and teachers may be unaware of the positive impact stakeholder participation may have on overall learner performance. They remain fixated on teaching and learning in the classroom.

• Attitude: Ignorance breeds attitude and develops stereotypes. Observation has shown that most principals who have not initiated the implementation of the QLTC in their schools have the perception that it is an add-on responsibility to their work and have no confidence that it will succeed.3 They view it as another departmental initiative that is bound to expose their inability to run a project, and hence wish it to fail. This attitude emanates from the ignorance of what impact the QLTC can have on school improvement. In addition, these principals normally have low regard for community involvement in the education of learners. They are ignorant of the potential within their communities. Schools like Thelesho Primary School in Mahikeng and many others that have tapped into community resources have proved that rural community stakeholders can contribute significantly to education. On the other hand, some community members believe that as they do not have a role in school activities, there is no incentive to participate. They would rather opt for and volunteer their energies to some remunerative work.

• Shortcomings of cascading model of training: Communication experts have found that the transmission of a message gets distorted along the communication path.4 This is the case regarding the cascading of the QLTC training from the National QLTC Steering Committee to school level. During monitoring and feedback sessions, many reports indicate that the information which reached schools via QLTC training or workshop sessions was inaccurate and/or insufficient. In some instances, principals said the QLTC can only be implemented if all stakeholders listed on the resource guide are available for inclusion at a school, whilst on the other hand, some indicated that the QLTC should be implemented using only officials employed by the national education department. Apart from transmitting inaccurate information, some schools did not train their colleagues at all.5 Feedback was only given at staff meetings, simply indicating the need to implement.

• Inability to start: We have found that during and immediately after learning how to implement the QLTC principles in their schools, the QLTC teams display a greater degree of enthusiasm to implement the campaign. However, they soon lose the passion and zeal to start. As a result of this delay, principals find themselves being unable to set up a school structure that does not comprise the full complement of stakeholders in the community. The saying ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ is then borne out. The first meeting of school QLTC teams should, besides clarifying roles, identify the activities to be performed by each stakeholder represented.

Recognisable benefits of implementing the QLTC

Schools that are successfully implementing the campaign have memorable testimonies to share:

• Improved parent participation in school activities: Where QLTC structures are fully functional, schools are able to attest to the fact that QLTC stakeholders are very helpful in mobilising parents to take part in school events.

• Volunteerism is promoted: Schools that have functional QLTC structures have community members volunteering to perform tasks at their schools. In one school, a parent has volunteered to offer his labour to replace window panes and administer burn-out treatment to school toilets. In another school, parents tended the school garden, and agreed to share the outputs at a particular ratio without compromising the benefit to the school.

• Strengthened relationships with community leadership: Interviews6 with principals and coordinators of QLTC at schools that implement the QLTC have revealed a startling phenomenon: community leaders (dikgosi) have been waiting to be invited to take part, and are eager to partake in future engagements. In villages, dikgosi take pride in learning institutions and want to be part of their development. They claim to have wished all along to have representation on the school governing bodies (SGBs).7 The QLTC is providing them with that platform now. Interviewed principals say the good relationship with traditional leadership has improved learners’ behaviour and parents’ participation.

• Increased capacity to get donations and sponsorship: To make presentations to potential donors and sponsors requires specialised skills, effective networking channels and dedicated time. Most schools indicate that they started receiving donations after the launch of the QLTC at their institutions, because of the initiatives of QLTC stakeholders. These schools are highly appreciative of the fact that the principal is always at school to monitor curriculum delivery, while QLTC members are on the lookout for donations that can benefit the school one way or another. QLTC teams at schools are also able to establish supportive alumni groups.

Charora High School in Bojanala district has, through its QLTC structure, established a ‘plough-back’ group. This group, all former students of the same school, have dedicated time to offer extra tuition to Grade 10 and 11 learners. They also organise career expos by mobilising successful former students and youth celebrities to participate in school events that have been organised. Former students of Herman Thebe High School in Mmatau have a functional alumni group that formally recognises excellent learner performance annually. And in Morokweng village, former students undertake to ensure that Grade 12 learners apply to tertiary institutions at the right time, guiding them on which tertiary institution to apply to, as well as which courses to pursue.

Empirical evidence?

Extensive research has been conducted on the subject of parental and community involvement in education. Research conducted is unanimous, consistent and convincing that stakeholders’ involvement in education correlates well with learner performance and school improvement.8

Research conducted by Holly Kreider et al.,9 for the Harvard Family Research Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the US, reveals that parental involvement can promote elementary schoolchildren’s success, prepare children for tertiary education and, more importantly, benefit those children who are less likely to succeed in their grades.

A senior research associate at the University of New Hampshire in the US10 found that parental involvement has a strong, positive effect on student achievement. Parental input is consistently associated with higher levels of achievement, and its ‘ripple effect’ magnitude is substantial. The research found that schools would need to increase per-pupil spending by more than US$1 000 to achieve the same results that are gained in schools where there is consistent, effective parental involvement.

Embrace the QLTC You will never start until you have started. The argument raised above clearly bears testimony to the fact that parental and societal involvement is critical for learners’ success. It is incumbent upon principals and SGBs to embrace the campaign and implement it in all our schools. 

L.H. Modisane is a chief education specialist and provincial QLTC trainer in the North West Department of Basic
Education.

References:
1. Department of Education (2009) “Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign: Presentation to Portfolio Committee: Parliament of South Africa, Cape Town.” Available at: http://db3sqepoi5n3s.cloudfront.net/files/docs/090217qltc-edit.pdf.

2. Department of Education (1998) “Building school capacity: systemic support for the process of change.” Available at: http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/turning/capacity.html.

3. Khosa, G. (ed.) (2013) Systemic School Improvement Interventions in South Africa: Some Practical Lessons from Development Practitioners. African Minds: Cape Town. Available at: http://www.jet.org.za/publications/jet-systemic-school-iomprovementlessons.pdf.

4. Author unknown (n.d.) “Organisational communication.” Available at: http://eunson.net/upload/c21-45_60_66172_com21st3e_Ch16.pdf.

5. See, for example: http://www.parliament.gov.za/live/commonrepository/Processed/20130507/498297_1.pdf.

6. See, for example: http://www.nwpg.gov.za/.

7. With the establishment of the South African Schools Act of 1996, all public schools are required to have an SGB democratically elected by members of the school community. See, for example: http://www.erp.org.za/htm/issuepg_SGB.htm.

8. Department of Education (1998) op. cit.

9. Dearing, E., Kreider, H., Simpkins, S. and Weiss, H. (2007) “Family involvement in school and low-income children’s literacy performance.” Available at: http://www.hfrp.org/publicationsresources/publications-series/family-involvement-research-digests/familyinvolvement-in-school-and-low-income-children-s-literacy-performance.

10. ScienceDaily.com (2008) “Parental involvement strongly impacts student achievement.” Available at:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080527123852.htm.

Category: Winter 2014

About the Author ()

News posts added for Independent Education by Global Latitude DMA

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. thandi says:

    we are aschool in kliptown, we do our own qltc just from little experience we have as educators

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *