If the graduating pupils of 2019 are to outperform their 2018 matric counterparts, their parents and guardians are going to have to become more involved in their education.

A good start would be for parents to refrain from making statements such as “I do not know the subject” or “I am not educated” when their children want help with their homework.

Other oft-repeated statements that are a no-no, according to a list of guidelines from the National Education Collaboration Trust, include: “I work long hours”; “I am tired when I come home”; “Teachers are paid to do it”; and “I was a failure at school”.

The trust aims to strengthen partnerships between civil society and government to achieve the country’s education goals. It is chaired by corporate heavyweight Sizwe Nxasana, and the trustees are drawn from stakeholders in business, government, education, labour and civil society.

The trust was established in 2013 in response to the National Development Plan’s requirement for increased collaboration to improve educational outcomes. One of its goals is for 90% of the country’s pupils to pass mathematics, science and languages with at least 50% by 2030.

The guidelines for parents and guardians were compiled by the department of basic education in consultation with experts, and are intended to get them more involved so that their children can reach their full potential.

These guidelines advise parents to do the following:

  • Ensure that children arrive at school on time and hand in their homework on time;
  • Develop clear rules at home and apply these consistently – but the fewer rules, the better;
  • Give their children chores and a home routine, which includes tidying up and caring for their possessions; and
  • Develop a daily reading routine by using whatever electronic gadgets you have, or can afford to have, for the purpose of reading. Downloading books on iPads, making magazines and books available at home, and encouraging children to join the local library are just some of the ways parents can help.

City Press also spoke to experts about what parents can do ahead of the new academic year, which begins on Wednesday.

According to Ruksana Osman, professor of education at the University of the Witwatersrand, parents or caregivers are the “ones who help provide a structure and a system for working on schoolwork in a disciplined and consistent way”.

Parents, she says, need to ensure that their children have the emotional and physical support they need to succeed.

“This can take the form of being interested in the child’s schoolwork and in their progress, and in ensuring that the child knows that he or she enjoys parental support.

“Also, parents and caregivers must be in regular contact with the school. The school [and] home partnership is vital for the pupil’s success,” Osman said.

Johannesburg-based clinical psychologist Vuyo Temba says parents need to show interest in their children and in what they do.

“Children often require validation from those they deem important and will therefore do things to please them. When a parent pays attention, they communicate to the child that ‘I see you, I acknowledge your existence and being, and I also recognise the efforts that you are making’.”

Temba says showing an interest involves asking children not only about how their day at school was, but also about other aspects of their lives.

“Ask them about their interests, even if they seem different from yours. This tells them that ‘my parent accepts me as I am, even when I am not like them’.

“Follow up on what they share with you. If, for example, they had a problem with a friend, find out how they resolved it. This shows a child that you keep them and their issues top of mind.”

Temba says parents need to congratulate their children for doing well and encourage them when they struggle. “Take time to listen to your child. Give your child responsibility. This teaches accountability. It means that, as they go about their schoolwork, they also understand that their behaviour can always be held up to scrutiny as they have to account for it.”

Temba advises parents to keep their children on a schedule that includes exercise, sleep and play. “The structure also helps them to understand the concept of boundaries, which goes a long way towards giving children a sense of safety and stability.”

She also recommends that parents work with their children to set up rules of behaviour. This works well with teenagers, who can be held accountable for the rules they helped create.

Temba warns against parents shaming a child – rather focus on building their self-worth and value, and do not compare them to others, especially siblings.

Crucially, she adds, parents should allow children to fail.

“These days, parents are refusing to allow their children to fail because of their fear of being seen as ‘bad parents’. To avoid this, they are often left to rescue their kids from failure and prevent them from making mistakes.”

Siyabulela Fobosi, an education researcher at Rhodes University’s Public Service Accountability Monitor, says parents need to encourage their matriculant children: “They need positive affirmation and encouragement to cope.”