One of the most powerful parts of my work is meeting new people from all over the world.
I listen to their stories, learn their passions, get a glimpse of their hearts. Sometimes people
are slow to share this information and sometimes they open like a river – and before you know it,
I am traveling downstream with them, completely connected and on a journey together.
My dear friend, Allo, is the latter. We connected across our mutual belief that when we transform our story of parenting, liberating ourselves from old stories of the way things must be, we can create positive change in the world. That connection led to a crazy, big dream. Millions of grassroots efforts, across Africa, but even more than that, across the world. Parents circling together to write a new story, a story of parenting and family that rejects control, separation and domination. We write a new story for ourselves, our children, our communities and our world.
It is a dream Allo and I both embrace and fully believe in. That dream led us to creating a partnership, a partnership across, continents, nations, and cultures.
It is this amazing partnership that I want to share with you. The Parent Liberation Alliance has formally partnered with APEA, the Alliance for Parenting Education in Africa, to launch parent education programs, parent study circles that harnesses all of our experiences, aspirations, and beliefs to create the world that connects the well-being of every child, every family, and every nation to each other. As individuals and a society we can create a base of love, wholeness, authenticity, and integrity that is the foundation for just and empowering relationships. And, as we are each reflections of the world, the world is changed by our commitment to wholeness, liberation, and freedom.
We started our journey with a simple, strong conviction. The betterment of Africa will only be achieved through millions of grassroots initiatives genuinely concerned with transforming humanity from childhood. This conviction became our goal. In order to transform humanity from childhood we must empower parents with skills and tools, grounded in their own experiences and reflections. By learning in community with other parents and using the power of that experinece and knowledge, they will be able to make the change they need in their relationships with children and within their families.
This belief is founded in a set of core values that inform our work and lives. To be effective, to create this transformation of Africa we must have integrity and be genuine. We respect the role of parents and caregivers, as well as the values of their community. We promote diversity of cultures, races, backgrounds and abilities. We learn by sharing and that means our approach is not traditional teaching, but learning in community and connectedness. We believe in justice and fairness and thus we treat all our partners and stakeholders with fairness
We are further inspired by the values and practices embodied in the concept of Ubuntu. Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes it in this way, “Ubuntu is the essence of being a person. It means that we are people through other people. We can’t be fully human alone. We are made for interdependence, we are made for family. Indeed, my humanity is caught up in your humanity, and when your humanity is enhanced mine is enhanced as well.”
Our movement away from fear, violence, disconnection, corruption, and abuse begins with reaffirming the humanity of children. Our future needs us to be willing to reflect on our cultural norms and practices as parents, and educators. For example, corporal punishment is the most common method of discipline in most African schools. According to a new study by the university of Toronto involving two private schools in a West African country children in a school that uses corporal punishment performed significantly worse in tasks involving executive functioning (psychological processes such as planning, abstract thinking, and delaying gratification) than those in a school relying on milder disciplinary measures. Even though corporal punishment is officially illegal in most African countries, teachers and parents still continue to use forms of punishment such as beating with a stick, slapping, and pinching as discipline.
Brain research and studies on child development have confirmed that robust programmes for parenting and early childhood development should begin during the first three years of life, especially to ensure that more fragile children will achieve a good and fair start in life. All parents in all cultures can benefit from up-to-date knowledge and supportive programmes designed to help them to respond appropriately to their children’s developmental needs.
From this conviction and knowledge, we formed an alliance. We named it the Alliance for Parenting Education is Africa (APEA). By using the word alliance we want to signal that we need all sectors of our society, our countries, to be involved in this change. And we need to connect across the world. It is not only in Africa that this change is needed. It is needed across the world. And we have the ability to learn from each other. We can take our mutual experiences and learn how to promote the values of Ubuntu in our parenting across the world. We are not separate nations, fighting against each other. The well-being of one person and one nation is the well-being of all people and all nations.
To achieve our goals, we are creating parent circles, study circles. Parents will come together in their communities. They will have the opportunity to share their experiences, thoughts and ideas, and they will learn more about the needs of children. This discussion of the developmental needs of children will take us beyond the cultural norms in place in our communities. By reconnecting to the humanness of children, the human needs of children, we can begin to empower parents to create families and homes where children are treated with dignity and respect.
Mindful of the fact that effective child-rearing cannot take place with only the parent it is our view that engaging other partners in child services such as teachers and nurses will create the best outcome. This is why together with our studies circles, we organise workshops for teachers on positive discipline and work with antenatal clinics to include presentations on child development and parenting education in antenatal classes.
To create a conducive environment for positive parenting, it is important to challenge cultural and social norms that encourage antisocial behaviours in children and youths. This is done by organising local leaders’ forums to discuss the consequences of such norms on our society and children in particular, and to dispel some misconceptions that lead to violence in children and women.To buttress our activities we also reach children directly through peer education programmes for young people in schools and communities. Through these peer education programmes children learn about positive character development and are supported to overcome negative peer pressure. They also learn about various cultural and social norms that promote violence and antisocial behaviours.
The Alliance for Parent Education in Africa holding PLP manuals.