EQUAL empowers parents to become involved in their children’s schooling
Mr. Kakada, 39, greeted us with a friendly smile when we met him at Spean Pou Primary School located in Sameakki Mean Chey District in Kampong Chhnang Province, Cambodia. Mr. Kakada and his wife work as fruit vendors, typically selling in front of a nearby garment factory. Mr. Kakada usually helps to take his son to and from school, and helps with the housework while his wife looks after their fruit cart.
He tells us that since becoming a member of his son’s Classroom Committee he feels proud of the primary school in his community, and happy about the increased involvement and contribution of parents in their children’s education.
Mr. Kakada remarked, “I am happy that the parents in my community are paying attention to their children’s school environment.”
He recalled that previously parents in the community were not very concerned with the quality of the school facilities, or their children’s studies. He said that because many of the parents had never attended or completed school they were not aware of the advantages of quality school environments for students.
Previously, he said the repetition and dropout rates at the school were high. Mr. Kakada considers this as a consequence of the parent’s lack of participation in the primary school. “They thought that it is not necessary to have clean classrooms for the education of their children. They also thought that their children [clearly] know their study schedules and can go to school themselves. But when the children’s study [results] are poor, the children don’t want to go to school [anymore],” explained Mr. Kakada.
Mr. Kakada has two children, his daughter is now in secondary school, but his son is currently a student at Spean Pou Primary School. Mr. Kakada was concerned about the state of the primary school, and he hoped that one day the school environment would be a place where the children felt happy. He thought that a nicer school environment might encourage higher attendance in class. Despite his personal wishes, he didn’t know what to do and felt powerless to change the perspectives of people in the community or bring about change at his children’s school.
In 2018, with funding support from Save the Children Korea, Save the Children began implementing the “Education with Quality and Inclusive Learning” (EQUAL) project in Mr. Kakada’s community. One of the key activities of the project is to strengthen community support for children’s learning by working closely with schools to establish Classroom Committees.
Classroom Committees are bodies that are tasked with maintaining and improving the classroom environments. Each classroom at the school has a committee, and it is comprised of the teachers and parents of the students in the class. The School Director and teachers invite the parents of each respective class to join orientation meetings, and then the parents vote to elect the committee leaders.
Through the Classroom Committee structure, parents are able to identify issues and make plans to improve their children’s classrooms. It also gives them opportunities to monitor the academic progress of their children, pool resources to invest in classroom learning and teaching materials, and build stronger relationships with each other, school teachers, and school management.
Mr. Kakada was happy to receive an invitation to join the orientation meeting and hear about the opportunity to become a member of the Classroom Committee. He understood that it would allow him to contribute his ideas to the school. He was surprised but excited when the other parents elected him to be president of the committee.
“I can help the teachers with their work, and find funding from [community] stakeholders to support and develop the classrooms,” explained Mr. Kakada when asked about his new role. “I really love children as well.”
Once elected as president of the committee, Mr. Kakada sent letters to the other student’s parents inviting them to join a meeting to make an action plan. Together, the parents decided their priorities and then set to work to clean and paint all the tables, desks, walls, and window shutters in the classroom. They also installed ceiling fans to ensure airflow in the classroom during the sweltering heat of the dry season. They made colorful and educational decorations for the walls so that the children would be more engaged and excited about learning.
Mr. Kakada is happy to see parents in the community join school activities and contribute their own money to decorate the classrooms and improve the school environment. He says most parents are very interested in participating in the meetings whenever they receive invitation letters from their children.
Day by day, the school has been changing through the hard work of dedicated parents like Mr. Kakada and with support from community leaders like the village chief, school director, teachers, the Commune Council, and the District Office of Education.
“The parents contributed money and materials to develop the school environment. I spent my time to help prepare the classroom environment for the children,” explained Mr. Kakada “The teachers always tell the students to ask their parents to join the activities [of the committee] to manage the classroom environment. We told the students [whose parents did not join] to describe the classroom environment to their parents [and come] to see the fruit of our efforts.
“Parents happily take their children to school after they see the clean school and they are committed to participate in activities that will make their children happy to come to school,” said Mr. Kakada with a smile.
“[Now] they have started to care about their children’s education and they are more involved in managing the school environment. As a Classroom Committee president, I am so happy to help the children’s education, and I hope they will be successful in the future.”