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‘Learning under the tree’: Changing parenting in rural Kenya

2.2 Identity and professional learning in new and diverse ecologies
Paper in a Symposium (Symp)
2:50 PM, Thursday 31 Aug 2017 (40 minutes)
Afternoon Refreshments   03:30 PM to 03:50 PM (20 minutes)
Child raising and parenting in the African context are subject to a high level of intense change, which has called for a more explicit attention to the practice of parenting by national and international policy makers. Through globalizing forces, parents are more than before exposed to ideologies of childhood and parenting from other regions in the world. Notions of parenting are rapidly developing from a collective responsibility for all community members to a highly individualized task that takes place in the smaller social unit of the nuclear family. On top of this, social cohesion and the related care responsibilities are under great pressure for a number of different reasons, amongst them HIV-AIDS which result in many single parent families or child-headed households. These trends lead to an increased attention for intervention programs in the area of parenting, especially in the context of international development. In many cases, the rational to intervene is seen as the solution for observed child abuse or violence against children. However, from a critical lens on international development, the issue has been raised that in such attempts not necessarily match with local traditions and culturally adaptive notions of childhood or parenthood. In this study, an analysis is made of the effects of such a training program from a sociocultural perspective on how parents learn, adopt and reject, and reflect on what for them is new knowledge on how to parent. By using a community of practice perspective (Wenger, 1998, 2010), the analyses focuses on how the training creates new collective learning opportunities, as well as how they relate to traditional community networks, care relationships, knowledge and responsibilities in the area of parenting. The study is part of an evaluation study of a parenting program ‘Skillful Parenting Programme’ (SPP) developed by ICS, an international NGO based in the Netherlands, and implemented in West Kenya. The issue of parenting is addressed in the program from the perspective of family dynamics and effective communication in the family, amongst other things. The evaluation research consists of a pre-post test design involving 100 parents, combined with in-depth interviewing post intervention involving 30 parents who participated in the program, as well as observations of the training sessions. The analyses revealed that the program was able to address the falling apart of the traditional task divisions between the generations in children’s education through creating a new awareness of responsibilities and task divisions. Parents saw the disruption of traditional learning communities related to the lesser role of grandparents who played a significant role in the moral and social development of young children, and in the passing on of knowledge on parenting. The program helped re-establish the participants learning community by making parents and trainers share experiences, and in turn sharing this new expertise with parents that did not participate in the program. Results show that parents feel more competent as parents, and report that they have changed the manner in which they discipline their children. They use techniques such as listening to understand better their children’s needs, which they find results in improved relationships. Parents justify their new behaviors, not in terms of ‘what is right’ but point to the fact that they work better. Making use of these analyses the paper reflects upon the more broader issue how we should think of implementing parenting programs cross-culturally while working with different conceptualizations of childhood, disciplining and violence, as well as of community.
Utrecht University
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