For many years, CAMFED’s Parent Support Groups (PSGs) have rallied support for the most marginalised children in rural communities in Ghana.
This network of parents and supporters who share in CAMFED’s vision of a world in which every child is educated, protected, respected and valued, and grows up to turn the tide of poverty, have worked together to support thousands of children in Ghana to learn and thrive.
For context, CAMFED currently has 512 PSGs active in 31 districts in Ghana, with an overall membership of 9,220, consisting of close to 8,000 mothers and over 1,200 fathers. Armed with unrivalled local knowledge, these community champions encourage community participation in CAMFED programs and provide agile and responsive support to students, schools and their communities.
PSGs drive a range of interventions including monitoring the performance of students supported through CAMFED, supporting the partner schools and ensuring the timely distribution of bursary items. They engage in advocacy on a wide range of issues, including the benefits of female education, the prevention of early marriages and teenage pregnancy. They also identify and support needy children to enrol in school, and act as a support network for students to boost confidence and prevent dropout.
PSGs are a critical platform for galvanizing parental support for education and helping to drive the success of CAMFED’s community programs. They support parents and caregivers at every level from the management of bank accounts, to supporting various school and community-level programmes such as providing meals for learners and improving school infrastructure.
When COVID-19 hit, the survival of many PSGs were threatened primarily due to the loss of family incomes that parents relied on to support activities of their groups. Dwindling resources meant many young learners would be impacted and the PSGs would be unable to carry on their mandates.
In April 2020, The Mastercard Foundation launched its COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program (CRRP) in Ghana to firstly, deliver emergency support for health workers, first responders and students. Secondly, to strengthen the diverse institutions that are the first line of defence against the social and economic aftermath of the disease. CAMFED was one of the first batch of partners identified to roll out interventions under the CRRP.
In partnership with the Foundation, CAMFED stepped in quickly to support the operations and activities of impacted PSGs – to enable them continue playing their role in the education of young people across the country. Through this partnership, close to 900 individual members from 111 PSGs were supported financially to withstand the economic shocks of the pandemic and to enable them to sustain the livelihoods of their families, bolster their businesses and to tackle food insecurity in farming communities.
Several PSG members recounted the impact of the support in improving the efficiency of their harvest by using hired farm labour to help reduce post-harvest losses.
The financial relief also offered an opportunity for groups to strengthen the ability of members to cope with other COVID-19 induced shocks, such as shortages of food and sanitary supplies. “We have jointly invested the relief funds in a vegetable farm and coconut fruits for oil production.
With this investment we hope to improve income levels of our members, keep them busy throughout the lean season, and to enable us support our children and their schools”, commented Seth Ofori-Atta, Group chairperson of Harmony PSG in the Gomoa West District of the Central Region.
Work of PSGs backed by research
There is a wealth of global evidence demonstrating the importance of parents in the attainment of educational goals of their children.
A key finding from a research study conducted by CAMFED and the Girls’ Education Unit (GEU) in 2016 as part of implementation of the DFID-funded Girls-Participatory Approaches to Students Success (G-PASS) project found that, “Supportive parental attitudes play a critical role in shaping children’s aspirations, life choices and educational attainment. Supportive attitudes entailed both symbolic and material roles played by parents”.
The research examined the role of parents in influencing the aspirations, life choices and educational attainment of students, and how their role is influenced by gender (of both parent and child).
Another study in the UK finds that ‘parental involvement in children’s education from an early age has a significant effect on educational achievement and continues to do so into adolescence and adulthood’.
Sackey’s study in Ghana (2007: p4) notes that ‘parental education is a decisive factor in the educational attainment of their children’. Additionally, the collaborative research by CAMFED and the GEU on girls’ clubs supports the positive correlation between parental support and the retention of girls in school.
According to the findings of the research, parental support ranked very high in the factors that contribute to girls’ retention and positive performance in school.
Furthermore, in the CAMFED-GEU research on aspirations and gender among junior high school students, teachers and school leaders highlighted the risk of dropping out of school children with limited parental support.
It concluded on the importance of mentoring outside of the school setting for female students, and the potential impact of interventions to strengthen family mentoring.
Overall, comprehensive and coordinated student support services, by parents and guardians, are critical for the social, emotional and character development of students and the development of learning climates that are conducive to student achievement of high academic standards.
This underlies the call by education researchers, policymakers and administrators for closer collaboration among government, education NGOs, schools and communities for enhancing children’s educational attainment.