Sunday, 7 June 2015

Parents’ Evening, Zambian Style

Last week we invited parents and guardians to come into school, to discuss their childrens' progress and see their work. It was both similar and very different to parents’ evenings in the UK. I have run quite a few over the years, but I think I enjoyed these ones the most!

Kapumpe Christian Primary School

Our lovely children

Zambian culture is based largely on respect, so parents and guardians were very respectful to us as teachers. They were polite, interested and listened to what we had to say. Many of them said thank you for the job we are doing - they are very grateful their children are getting an education as not all children here have the means to go to school. Of course, many parents in the UK are just as polite as the Zambians, but not all of them. At home it can seem that some parents can forget teachers are professionals and speak to them in a way which they would not dare speak to their boss or their bank manager!

Every parent or guardian wanted to know how their child behaves in school, as this is very important to them. All the feedback I gave was accepted, and never blamed on staff or other children. Fatima, the Zambian teacher who I am mentoring, ran the meetings with me. It meant that she could translate between English and Bemba for the parents and guardians who needed it. I found that having a translator gives you time to think about what you need to say next, and how you will word it.

Fatima, our Zambian teacher

A real bonus for us as teachers was that our meetings were held during the day rather than the evening. It would be too dark for people to attend later, as it gets dark here at 6pm all year round. Rosie and I planned activities that we could run with both classes for a day each, to cover each other’s class whilst the other met with the parents and guardians. At home, a full day of teaching followed by long evenings of non-stop, intense discussions can be very draining.

There is no need to allocate time slots here because people would just not stick to them, in true African style! We invited parents and guardians to come any time between 8am-12pm and 2pm-4pm, which worked very well. Zambian people don't mind waiting so there was no pressure to talk quickly or rush appointments. This was very helpful for me as I seem to talk a lot!

Home and school links are a strength of the schooling system in the UK. Here, it’s more of a challenge because we don’t see parents and guardians very often. Very few of them collect children from school, and they don’t all have contact phone numbers. There can also be language and cultural barriers which are not always easy to overcome.

Most children walk to school, catch the bus or cram in the van!

I certainly enjoyed the more relaxed feel of the meetings over here. Even Archie (Tim & Gemma’s dog, who Rosie and I have been looking after whilst they are away) came with me in the afternoon! 

Running parents' meetings with Archie the dog

1 comment:

  1. I love this style of parents' evening! Zambia clearly suits you! xx