Project TAI, under the Community Service Centre, is purposed with providing academic and life skills mentoring in Kitui; as a Center of Excellence project, it envisions the transformation of schools in rural Kenya through life-skills training of students, enhancing teacher pedagogy and parental empowerment. Like the Macheo Program, it encompasses parental engagement aimed at educating parents and guardians on current challenges facing the youth to help them understand their children better and subsequently, improve the parent-child relationship.
The 10 high schools under Project TAI have adopted a hands-on parental engagement approach aimed at helping parents realize that they are the first educators of their children as parental involvement directly affects the children’s learning, development and educational outcomes. When parents are engaged through enhancing their parental skills, they are able to: provide the right tools to their children on how to use the internet responsibly, assist their children make right career choices, advise their children on time management and pass critical thinking tools to them.
When closely observed, these aspects build on regular communication and interaction between parents and children and are key in boosting understanding and trust between them. Additionally, parental involvement provides for strong bonds of trust between the school and parents for the latter are able to entrust their children to the school on the grounds that they are fair, qualified, and dependable and have their children’s interest at heart. There is a demand for the project to find innovative ways on how to best engage parents in the midst of limited interaction protocols and in general ensure its mission’s sustainability into the future.
Since the project’s conception, the parental engagement activities were held physically i.e entailed face-to-face interaction. Needless to say, this mode of engagement was disrupted with the onset of the COVID pandemic that called for halting of all physical gatherings to curb the spread of the virus. The pandemic presented many unforeseen challenges that birthed even more possibilities, one of them being innovatively engaging parents in the ‘new normal.’ Indeed, necessity is the mother of invention as the high school principals struggled to incorporate new ideas in keeping their parents engaged. For St. Johns Kwa Mulungu Secondary School, the Principal took the initiative of communicating with the parents via WhatsApp and by sending out important information by bulk SMS option but this was hindered due to some parents lacking mobile phones. With the resumption of learning in schools, the school was unsuccessful in its attempts to organize physical parents meetings owing to the increased tension surrounding the spread of the virus. The circumstances speaking to all the 10 Principals, an agreement was reached to conduct subsequent meetings in the nearby available facilities such as the church halls.
Aware of the difficult situations presented to the high school students by the COVID pandemic, the Community Service Centre sought to find solutions that spoke to both parents and their teenage children. This they were able to do by implementing a podcast. The Winning @ LifeSkills Podcast seeks to simplify life skills and values to help teenagers cope well with the change. The podcast serves as a great conversation starter among parents and their children by basing off a conversation on one of the published episodes. To listen to one of the episodes, use this link: Resilience Episode– Winning @ LifeSkills Podcast