One of my most vivid memories of growing up was the time after school that I had to spend completing homework before I could get to watch TV. I had just arrived to the US, and for the first time in my life, I had a TV in the house. This was a very exciting development for a kid from Nepal. At school, I was learning English thanks to my great ESL teacher Mrs. Beozzo, and I was beginning to understand what they were saying on TV. For me, TV time was actually a form of education in itself, and in a way, I learned to speak English from watching The Looney Tunes, ALF, The Cosby Show, and The Jeffersons. Maybe not recommended for everybody, but it worked for me.
As much as I wanted to put down the math or English homework to watch TV instead, my parents made sure that I completed my schoolwork first. Interestingly, my father (who was studying at University of Pittsburgh at the time) would be in his room doing his schoolwork also, so it was my father, my brother, and I doing our homework together. My mother had recently graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, and she was able to do that despite having a very limited amount of formal English education. In short, I had no excuses at home for getting my schoolwork done. As my example illustrates, family, especially parents play a huge role in shaping the education of their children.
Most children in rural Nepal don’t have enough time to spend on books because they have to help their struggling families with work around the house and fields. These moments are far too rare for most underprivileged children, especially girls.
Here are just a few things that education experts on education cite as roles for parents in their child’s education:
- Be a role model for learning. Parents are the first teachers for children. Whether it is reading together, singing to their kids, or counting together. Once a child starts in school, parents have the responsibility of continuing to support their child’s learning.
- Practice what your child learns at school. Going over things like basic counting skills, multiplication tables or letter recognition, depending on the needs and learning level of your child.
- Don’t over-schedule your child. The idea here is that kids need downtime as much as they may need to study and pursue extra-curricular activities. Parents should monitor your child to see that he is truly enjoying what he is doing. If he isn’t, cut something off the schedule,” advises Michael Thompson, Ph.D.
- Learn something new yourself. You’ll gain a better understanding of what your child is going through and your child may learn study skills by watching you study. You might even establish a joint study time.
In short, the role of parents during a child’s earliest years is the single biggest influence on their development.
All of these statements have been proven to be very accurate and the advice for parents to play a key role in their child’s educational development is as sound as it gets. However, as our work with Rukmini Foundation has shown, often we are dealing with parents from the most impoverished backgrounds that struggle to even earn just enough to provide the bare necessities for their family. In many cases, we deal with parents who never had an education themselves, so even basic advice like read to your child is not feasible. We have also recognized the very big problem of parents not being able to find enough time to spend with their children in terms of supporting their education, or being able to help with schoolwork — if they could. Often, their children have more education than they do. Despite these challenges for the parents and their children, the foundation’s leadership in Nepal is imploring the parents of school children to be as supportive as possible of their children, especially their girls, in their pursuit of education.
Our Regional Director, Shashi Sharma is inspirational as usual as he talks about the importance of education for all and the responsibility parents have in securing this fundamental right for their children
We recognize that these parents face many hardships in being able to support their families, and ultimately they do want what is best for their daughters. However, their understanding of the importance of education for girls is very limited, and they are not completely convinced that their daughters will need a good education for the rest of their lives. In an effort to educate the community at large about the importance of girls education, our Program Officer, Niroj Shrestha, Regional Director, Shashi Sharma, and Selection Committee Head, Kedar Nath Acharya organized a meeting with the Rukmini scholars and their parents and guardians at A School for Community premises.
Gauri Magrati (standing) is not only the mother of one of the scholars (Junu), but she is also a student at ASC’s continuing education for women program. Here she speaks about her experience with Rukmini Foundation and ASC.
The foundation’s leadership in Nepal stressed that while organizations like Rukmini Foundation can open the doors for the girls to pursue an education, it must be them who walk through it and fulfill their goals. They also stressed the important roles that parents play in how their children view education and how well they do in school. Most of the parents believe that education happens in the school only, and Mr. Shashi Sharma explained how the children develop their interest in learning and their work ethic by following their parents as examples. For the parents in the audience who had little or no education in their own background, it felt a strange concept that they could somehow teach their children or shape their learning. By the end of the meeting, they agreed that they could do more to make their homes a better environment for learning.
Junu (pictured above) has demonstrated great academic aptitude, and it is no surprise that her mother, Gauri, has had a strong influence in her education.
One of the highlights of the meeting was hearing one of our first year scholars’ mother talk about what education means to her, and how her experience with Rukmini Foundation and A School for Community. Junu Magrati‘s mother, Gauri, talked about how her daughter has been excelling in school and besides crediting her daughter’s hard work, she believes that the mentoring from the Didi program has really help her daughter. Gauri went on to talk about her personal challenges like her early marriage and how it ended her own educational ambitions as a young girl. She also talked about how happy she was to be able to get back into school through ASC’s continuing education program for women, and how she is working hard towards passing the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examination. Gauri is not only a role model for her daughter Junu, but for all Nepali women who were denied the right to education as an early age. She did not let her past define her future because she is taking this opportunity to be educated and embracing the possibilities. The students, staff, and other parents in this meeting were very touched and inspired by her.
We believe that this type of meeting is necessary to continue to highlight the importance of the roles of the parents in the educational lives of their children. We will plan on scheduling these more frequently so that the parents can continue to see the progress their children are making, but also continue to see the role that education plays in the development of a family and a community.
As I reminisce back to my younger days, I begin to really appreciate the environment that I grew up in. From my grandfather in Nepal who was a respected teacher to my uncle who urged people to enroll their children in school, to my mother who broke cultural barriers by being the first girl from her village to go to school, and so many other examples – I had no choice but to appreciate education. I always had a supportive environment where learning was promoted, and I had great examples I could see on a daily basis. Unfortunately, most of the world, especially in the underdeveloped parts of the world, children do not have the same opportunities or the role models I did. They face challenges that I cannot imagine, and many of those challenges are borne from their economic condition. Their parents struggle to provide their children enough food and clothing, and do not have the educational background of their own to be able to help them with school work. However, by engaging these parents in this type of forum, and by highlighting examples like Gauri Magrati and her daughter Junu, other parents can see the power of education in action.
Happy World Parents Day (June 1) to all parents the world who give everything they have to provide their children with a better life than their own. Your hard work and sacrifice does not go unnoticed, even if we sons and daughters sometimes seem to take you for granted.