For many years, CAMFED’s Parent Support Groups (PSGs) have rallied support for the most marginalized 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 advocate for thousands of children in Ghana so they can 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 more than 1,200 fathers. Armed with unrivalled local knowledge, these community champions encourage community participation in CAMFED programs and provide agile and responsive assistance to students, schools, and their communities.
PSGs are responsible for a range of interventions, including monitoring the performance of students participating in CAMFED programs, as well as backing 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 help needy children to enroll in school, and act as a support network for students to boost confidence and reduce the rate of dropouts.
PSGs are a critical platform for galvanizing parental support for education and driving the success of CAMFED’s community programs. They work with parents and caregivers at every level – from managing bank accounts to contributing to various school and community-level programs, such as providing meals for learners and improving a school’s 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 implement the activities of their groups. Dwindling resources meant many young learners would be impacted and the PSGs would be unable to carry on with their mandates.
In April 2020, the Mastercard Foundation launched its COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program (RRP) in Ghana to:
- Deliver emergency support for health workers, first responders, and students.
- 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 group of partners identified to roll out interventions under the Mastercard Foundation’s RRP.
In partnership with the Foundation, CAMFED stepped in quickly to assist with the operations and activities of impacted PSGs – to enable them to continue educating young people across the country. Through this partnership, close to 900 individual members from 111 PSGs were financially supported to withstand the economic shocks of the pandemic, which enabled them to sustain the livelihoods of their families, bolster their businesses, and tackle food insecurity in farming communities.
Several PSG members were able to improve the efficiency of their harvest by using hired farm labour, which contributed to a reduction in post-harvest losses. The financial relief also provided groups with an opportunity 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 and keep them busy throughout the lean season, as well enable our children to continue with their schooling,” 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, and how their role is influenced by gender (of both the parent and child)”.
Another study in the UK demonstrated 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 showed 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 and GEU research on aspirations and gender among junior high school students, teachers, and school leaders highlighted the risk of children dropping out of school if they had limited parental support.
The research 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 high-performing students. This underscores the call by education researchers, policymakers, and administrators for closer collaboration among government, education NGOs, schools, and communities to nurture and enhance children’s educational attainment.