Challenging Absenteeism in Non-Formal Education Programs

As discussed in last week’s blog post, attendance is critical to academic success.  As mentioned, parents of children in our community are beginning to understand the positive effects of preschool programs on their children’s success in school; therefore, TYO has few attendance problems in our morning Core Child program.  However, keeping attendance up in our afternoon program has historically been challenging because parents rarely understand the importance of non-formal education. Although many parents value formal education highly, they often fail to see how non-formal and formal education are related.  Because parents consider TYO’s afternoon program non-academic, they deem it optional.  In doing so, they fail to understand its diverse benefits for their children’s emotional, academic, and personal success.

TYO meets this challenge by educating mothers on the importance of non-formal education, while also working to incentivize attendance.  Suhad, TYO’s Psychosocial Program Manager, and the teachers meet with mothers throughout the session to discuss psychosocial needs and progress of their children.  TYO also offers incentives to both the children and their mothers to motivate higher attendance.  To help children advocate for their own attendance at TYO, we offer field trips for students with few absences.  TYO brings the children to local parks, the zoo, and historical sites every two weeks.  For every child, TYO provides transportation to and from the center as well as a healthy afternoon snack.

Children in TYO's Core Child Program

In spite of the general lack of appreciation for non-formal programs, many mothers are beginning to recognize that their children’s experiences in the afternoon Core Child program have had a positive impact on their behavior.  In recent meetings with Suhad, several mothers mentioned that their children have developed better time management skills and a sense of routine after coming to TYO.  They wake up earlier, get ready for school without being asked, and leave for school on time.

While recognizing these positive changes, some mothers still don’t attribute them to non-formal education.  They aren’t yet convinced that their children will focus better on their schoolwork if they are given time to let out some energy and have fun.  Instead, mothers have consistently asked TYO to use the after-school time to help their children with Arabic, Math, and English homework.

For the first time this session, TYO has added a period for homework help after the non-formal education segment of the program. Now, children come to the afternoon Core Child program with their backpacks, ready to work on their homework after they enjoy some fun non-formal activities.   If the children have already completed their homework, they can choose to read a wide range of books made possible by a grant from the Middle East Partnership Initiative.

Because we have added this homework segment, attendance in our afternoon Core Child program has dramatically improved.   As a result, we have helped parents to see their children’s attendance at TYO as a priority.  Moreover, we have given the children an unprecedented opportunity to benefit from both non-formal education and academic support.