Leave the teaching to teachers, says parenting support head

HEAD of the National Parenting Support Commission (NPSC) Kaysia Kerr is urging Jamaican parents to leave the teaching to teachers, even as their children remain at home because of the novel coronavirus.

Kerr told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that parents, frustrated because of their inability to help children with their schoolwork, are among the many callers to the recently established support helplines across the country.

“One of the reasons the parent helpline support is important is because we are very aware that when parents get frustrated, especially when they are helping with their children’s schoolwork, this is when abuse tends to escalate and we don’t want our children to be abused, and we certainly don’t want our parents to become so frustrated that they regret the actions that they employ in the teaching/learning process,” said Kerr.

“That is why the NPSC continues to say that what we want parents to do is to structure the days so that they include times for learning activities that teachers would have set for the children. They really ought to leave the teaching process to the persons who have been trained and who are skilled in that regard.

“What we want parents to do is to create the atmosphere so that there is time allotted for children to complete assignments and to access teaching and learning through whatever media the Ministry of Education has put in place. We are really not asking parents to become teachers, because teaching is a skill,” added Kerr.

She said the helplines give parents an opportunity to reach out for support when they do not understand the work that has been assigned to their children.

The helplines were launched on April 6 with two in each parish, except in Kingston, St James, St Ann, St Catherine, and Clarendon, which have been given additional helplines.

“Each parish has its own set of unique numbers, because we believe that the response to the needs of parents must be localised. In other words, we would not want somebody in Kingston trying to solve the issues in say, Westmoreland, Hanover or Trelawny. We want the response to be very localised to what those issues are,” she said.

The responders, who are all NPSC parent mentors, were already trained in delivering parenting support and have been working extensively with parents in their respective communities. To operate the new helplines, they have received additional online training in the provision of psychological first-aid within the context of COVID-19.

The training of the responders was done by the non-governmental organisation Fight for Peace, which uses this method in its work with parents and children in inner-city communities to help them manage stressful or traumatic situations.

Fight for Peace is one of three entities partnering with the NPSC to operate the helplines. The other partners are United Nations Children’s Fund and the Victoria Mutual (VM) Foundation.

According to Kerr, the number one problem facing parents in the first week the helplines were launched was a need for food from individuals put under economic pressure by COVID-19.

“But we noticed those calls have gone down. Following that, it was access to school materials, but that, too, has decreased, because we would have seen that there are many modalities to get material to children and give them access to education.

“But some persons are finding it difficult to cope in this new environment where they have anxieties regarding the virus. Many persons were consuming way too much about the virus on television and social media, and not everything on social media was absolutely correct,” said Kerr.

She said individuals were calling the parent support helplines worried about the information that they had consumed, and the responders were able to point out what was wrong.

The NPSC head said the responders also fielded questions about the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education as some children were not receiving the benefits they were expecting.

“And, of course, you had persons calling about their children who had special needs, and those calls were treated with or referred to places where they could get support,” she said.

With the support of its partners, Kerr said the NPSC is confident that it can keep the parent support helplines up and available for as long as necessary.

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