How Communities can use Local Resources to Improve Public Schools

Published Mar 14, 2018
Image source: subokim.wordpress.com

Engagement is the foundational element of any plan to improve Nigeria’s public schools. With the support of the community at large, significant change can be effected to improve the public schools. When working to engage citizens to improve schools, parents, students and school staff all need to be included to maximize an initiative’s effectiveness by pooling resources. One of the first steps when creating a plan is to establish a common vision with achievable goals, based on available resources. It is also essential to expand these resources by raising funds through as many means as possible: individual donors, foundations, local businesses, etc. (“Community Mobilization”).

 

The Reform Support Network has an excellent framework for creating change in schools based on 4 principles. The first is to inform the community about any proposed changes as people are more receptive and less resistant when they feel they are included. As part of this, the second principle is to inquire to allow them to express themselves and feel heard. It’s important that this feedback is incorporated into future plans. The third principle is to involve members of the community in the work as it will ensure buy-in and lead to a greater chance of success. Finally, the most significant change occurs when the community is inspired to lead and continue to effect change, particularly after the end of a project.

 

Fostering positive relationships within a community is key. Many communities can feel disenfranchised and skeptical due to broken promises and unfulfilled expectations from past initiatives (“Five Steps”). Communicating early and often about planned initiatives through various methods like email, flyers, open houses, forums, and even social occasions like barbecues. Maintaining open communication helps people feel supported and connected to a project, and creates bonds within the community. An environment that allows members of the school community to feel comfortable advocating for the change they want to see is more likely to lead to productive and meaningful change.

 

When building relationships and trust at the beginning of a project a particularly effective tool is to identify and complete a quick impact project (QIP). This is a short-term, attainable project to build momentum off of a community’s enthusiasm and increase their confidence and trust in the initiative. The QIP should be based on the identified priorities from the community to show that they are being heard.

 

Student engagement is essential in any plan to improve schools. To increase student motivation they need to feel valued, and their ideas need to be listened to. It is instrumental to recognize student achievement when working to increase their engagement. There are many ways to do this: assemblies, bulletins, contests, honor societies, book reading competitions, etc. One excellent suggestion from the National Urban League is to create a “Believer” program, which recognizes the growth students have made even if they aren’t ‘A’ students (Price). It is also important to support students and honor the whole child by providing after-school programs. Another way to support learners is by providing training to parents such as the “Parent University” created by Boston Public Schools covering both academic topics and topics about child development including nutrition. There are many ways to create change in public schools but the most important factor is that the approach is authentic and has the support of the community.

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Laurel Parr

I am a Canadian teacher who is passionate about learning for all!

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