Teacher mentoring is a crucial student support service that is aimed at helping individuals to discover and develop their educational, vocational and psychological potential and thereby achieve an optimal level of personal happiness and social usefulness.
To effectively meet the needs of all students, it is essential that the foundation of teacher mentoring is both systematic in approach and comprehensive in nature. This is important because as students mature and develop, any teacher mentoring programme must keep pace with their social, emotional, behavioural and cognitive changes and the relation of those changes to educational, career and societal changes.
This programme complements cash transfers to schools and bursary support packages to children as part of an integrated set of strategies which will reduce the barriers to education for children, particularly those marginalised as a result of family, poverty, sex, disability or ethnicity.
As a key element of the Camfed model, teacher mentors are in contact with children on a daily basis and fulfill a range of functions. They serve as the focal point for child protection and psychosocial support at school level through their own commitment and initiative.
The role of teacher mentors is critical in ensuring children receive the needed support, be it psychosocial or academic, and to ensure they stay in school and perform well.
As part of the Camfed Ghana teacher mentoring programme, there are two teacher mentors each in 450 primary schools, 332 junior high schools and 73 senior high schools in its operational regions of the Upper West, Upper East, Northern and Central.
Teacher mentor research
To understand ways in which teacher mentoring impacts on students, Camfed commissioned a research on the role of teacher mentors in influencing outcomes for students in secondary schools in Ghana. The study was undertaken with funding support from the Mastercard Foundation and examined the role teacher mentors played in schools, how and to what extent teacher mentors are affecting outcomes for students in schools, as well as the factors that affect the influence teacher mentors have on student outcomes in secondary schools.
Conducted in 20 schools made up of 12 Camfed partner schools and eight non-Camfed partner schools across the Central and Northern regions, the study drew on both qualitative and quantitative data with the qualitative being more dominant.
The schools were spread across two districts in each region, with five schools selected from each district. The study employed in-depth interviews and focus group discussions as the main qualitative data collection tools. The qualitative data were supported by quantitative data based on the survey method. The survey data were gathered from 358 teacher mentors across four regions in the country.
The study found that teacher mentors largely constructed the mentoring role as a process of nurturing, which entails parenting, being a good role model and making sacrifices. Mentoring was also seen as an opportunity to learn, make a difference and help needy students. It was observed that girls’ clubs in the schools studied were found to be the main platform on which teacher mentors facilitated an organised and structured set of activities in various secondary schools.
The study also found that the activities of teacher mentors seem to be shaped by a sense of responsibility where teacher mentors’ commitment could be viewed as part of fulfilling a social contract. The study further highlights a wide range of support provided by teacher mentors, including guidance and counselling, emotional support and financial assistance.
The study also showed that teacher mentors have significant impact on a wide range of outcomes, including improved academic performance, enhanced leadership skills and reduction in teenage pregnancy among secondary school students.
A strong sense of social responsibility, which seemingly takes its roots from engagement in girls’ club activities such as donations and clean-up exercise, was also noted among mentored students. This underscores the important role teacher mentors play in nurturing the spirit of selflessness and give-back among beneficiary students.
International Day of the Girl-Child
As the world celebrates International Day of the Girl-Child on October 11, Camfed and its partners will like to draw the world’s attention to the findings of the study which have important implications for government and stakeholders in the education sector.
The study confirms the need for instance to institutionalise a comprehensive teacher mentoring programme in all secondary schools in Ghana. The study also suggests the need to establish girls’ clubs in schools with no such clubs and revamp existing ones that have become inactive.
The study further suggests the need to increase the number of female teachers, particularly in mixed and girls’ schools, to support the objective of facilitating female education.
Finally, there is the need for frequent training of teacher mentors and involvement of other stakeholders such as past students and parents in providing support and mentoring to students.