Elementary Education in Orissa

“For fifty years we have been a developing nation. It is time we see ourselves as a developed nation.” This is the part of the speech of Dr Abdul Kalam in Hyderabad. Whenever we are talking about Developed nation, suddenly education comes to picture with other major indicators like the growth rate of the economy, birth rate, death rate, infant mortality rate (IMR), and literacy rate. These indicators are all interconnected with each other and the literacy rate has been the major determinant of the rise or fall in the other indicators. There is enough evidence even in Orissa to show that a low literacy rate correlates with high birth rate, high IMR, and decrease in the rate of life expectancy. The recognition of this fact has created awareness on the need to focus upon literacy and elementary education programmes, not simply as a matter of social justice but more to foster economic growth, social well-being, and social stability.

The Constitution of India casts an obligation on the State to provide free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of 14. The literacy rate in Orissa during 1951 was 15.8% against the all India average of 18.3%, which increased to 63.6% in 2001 against the all India average of 65.4%. While the male literacy rate of 63.1% in the State in 1991 increased to 75.9% in 2001, the female literacy rate increased from 34.7% to 51.0%. There has been a steady improvement in the literacy rates of the State over successive decades, which is a result of expansion of educational infrastructure both quantitative and qualitative.

In 1950-51, there were 9,801 Primary Schools with 16,525 teachers and 3.15 lakh students. There were 501 Upper Primary Schools with 2,569 teachers and 40,000 students. Also there were 172 High Schools with 2,247 teachers and 16,000 students. Since 1950-51, there has been a considerable expansion in the number of educational institutions, enrollment and number of teachers at all levels during successive plan periods. In 2003-2004, there are 44,416 Primary Schools with 52.54 lakh enrollment and 97 lakh teachers in the State. There is one Primary School for every 3.5 Sq.Km area. The state government has established 14, 233 Upper Primary Schools for each 10.94 km area in the State.

Issues of Concern

Education is the key to social & economic development of any society. It encompasses every sphere of human life. Level of literacy has a profound bearing on the level of human development. There are major issues, which are directly or indirectly concerned with the education in Orissa. First, the dropout rate in primary and upper primary schools is become a major issue of concern. In the same time dropout rate become a major setback in the increasing literacy rate which was at the primary stage 33.6%. But if you compare girls dropout rate with boys, the dropout rate for girls was 35.4% and for boys 31.9%. Dropout rate at upper primary stage was 57.5% in 2003-04. Out of them 56.5% boys dropped out in upper primary stage while 58.6% girls dropped out in the same year. Second issue is infrastructure of school buildings, which are in bad conditions. And the old or unsafe school buildings of our state are inadequate to meet the needs of school children. Many of them one-room (or even open-air) operations with poorly paid teachers.

Steps taken by the State Government

Orissa government has always made concerted efforts to provide education to all. Some major initiatives were taken to offer quality education for a brighter future not only for Oriyas but also for the state, at last for the nation. Some steps were directed towards the reform and renewal of state’s education system. In the same time there has been a considerable expansion in the number of educational institutions, enrolment and number of teachers at all levels during successive plan periods.

The central and state governments have been expanding the provision of primary formal and non-formal education to realise the goal of Universilisation of Elementary Education (UEE). Elementary education is recognised as a fundamental right of all citizens in India. The directive principles of state policy envisage UEE as one of the major goals to be achieved and mandated in a timeframe. As per guidelines adopted at the national level, the State aims at providing access to Primary Schools within one kilometer and Upper Primary Schools within three kilometers from habitations having 300 or more and 500 or more respectively. In order to achieve the goal of Universalisation of Elementary Education and to improve the quality, steps have been initiated to engage more 9,563 para teachers under State Plan.

Government of India’s flagship programme ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ was launched on nation-wide scale to universalize elementary education by providing for community ownership and monitoring of the school system. The objectives of the programme are compulsory Education to all the Children of 6-14 years age group by 2007. Under the programme, there were 780 new primary schools, 2,771 new upper primary schools were opened and. 25,594 Swechasevi Sikhshya Sahayaks were appointed in 2003-04. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme calls for community participation through effective decentralisation – involvement of Village Education Committee (VEC), Members of Panchayat Raj institutions and Womens’ group. It ensures transparency and accountability of the school system to the community. To lesson the burden of Directorate of Higher Education, the state government has been established three regional Directorates in Bhubaneswar, Berhampur and Sambalpur. Regional Directors of these Directorates have been vested with similar powers of Director of Higher Education. Today, access to the qualitative education is reducing in Orissa. The reason is a lack of budget, weak governance and decline of physical infrastructure, shortage of teachers and their low salary, obsolete teaching plans, poverty and malnutrition, and absence of parents and society participation.

Hurdles to achieve the Goal

Funds become major hurdle for every developmental programme in Orissa. In some cases, it is surplus and government cannot utilize the fund within the required timeframe. In the other side, it is deficit. In every step and in every stage, we extend our hand in front of the Central government, financial institutions for funds. How do you education keep the education aside? The government does not have money for primary education. Well, the fiscal deficit is surely a problem, but that could not be excused during a downturn if it is used for opening up the way to developed nation. The Government of Orissa fully endorses the approach on universalisation of elementary education and the scheme ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ should be given the highest priority. But when we are heading towards success of the programme, we do not have fund to provide the study materials to the students. With the assistance from Central Government, the Orissa Government has been providing the study materials every year. For a state like Orissa, the government needs 3.5 crores books for the students up to VII class.

Generally, the government was sanctioned eight crores every year. In the current year budget, only four crores has sanctioned, whereas approximately 30 crores required for the printing of study materials. Now, It is become routine issue for the government to sanction inadequate fund and demand more money at the neck of the moment when the books should reach at the end user. This is not only creating an obstacle in the time bound programme but also spoil the valuable time of the students for struggling with the course without courseware. Here I have highlighted one issue, which is occurred in every year at the beginning of academic year. Government has been compromising the issue without thinking the future of the small kids.

Though it is a routine issue, then why Government is not considering this issue seriously?

Some other issues like educational infrastructure and appoint good teachers with good salary are also taken into consideration. When we are appointing good teachers for this programme, we should think about the other side of the coin (i.e good remuneration). The state government appointed 40,846 Shiksha Sahayaks under several schemes including District Primary Education Programme (DPEP) and Sarba Siksha Abhijan (SSA). Due to deficit budget the Shiksha Sahayaks are compromising with the situation and ready to work in less salary (i.e. Rs 1500 per month), which is less than the wage of a bonded labour. In spite of that the State Government is unable to provide their share at least in time to the Shiksha Sahayaks. How would we expect quality education from a teacher who is struggling to survive in this expensive society? Recently, the State Government has decided to hike the monthly honorarium of the Siksha Sahayaks from Rs 1500 to Rs 2000. This decision was taken at a high-level meeting presided over by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on October 20. This will cost the State Exchequer an additional Rs 25 crore per year. Obviously, zero percent credit goes to the State Government. Though Central Government is supporting 75 percent of the estimated expenditure, this additional hike will be added to the aided account. If Sarba Siksha Abhijan is become a flop programme, then the credit goes to the state government. The major barrier is deficiency of fund.

Conclusion

We are compromising in every step of our life. How many days will we live with ‘compromise’? Let us stop compromising with our future and with our future generation. At least the State Government should give up elementary education. Education makes man a right thinker. It tells man how to think and how to make decision. When the absolute number of literate people in the state is steadily rising year after year, then where are those instincts of a literate person? Where is your voice against the backward step of the government? But moving beyond educational programmes requires much political will and public pressure. Unfortunately, elementary education continues to receive low priority from those in power. While State Assembly discusses trivial issues, issues related to elementary education gathers dust. If government will not take any rigid step then all children of 6-14 years age group in school by 2003, all children to complete 5 years of schooling by 2007and all children to complete 8 years of schooling by 2010 will become a utopian dream for us.

Institutional Reforms In The Higher Education Sector Of Mozambique And Ethical Issues

The need to eradicate poverty through increased literacy

One of the central goals defined by the Government of Mozambique in its long-term development strategy is “poverty reduction through labour-intensive economic growth”. The highest priority is assigned to reduce poverty in rural areas, where 90 percent of poor Mozambicans live, and also in urban zones. The Government recognizes also that, for this development strategy on poverty eradication to succeed, expansion and improvement in the education system are critically important elements in both long-term and short-term perspectives.

In the long term, universal access to education of acceptable quality is essential for the development
of Mozambique´s human resources, and the economic growth will depend to a significant extend on the education and training of the labour force. It is very important to develop a critical mass of well trained and highly qualified workforce which in turn will improve the overall literacy, intellectual development, training capacity and technical skills in various areas of the country’s economic and industrial development.

In the short term, increased access and improved quality in basic education are powerful mechanisms for wealth redistribution and the promotion of social equity. This policy is consistent with the provisions of the new Constitution of Mozambique adopted on 16 November 2004, in its articles 113 and 114 which deal respectively with education and higher education. Around the year 1990, the Government of Mozambique decided to change its social, economic and political orientation system from the centrally-planned system inherited from the communist era and adopted a western-style of free market system. At the same time, it was also decided to adopt fundamental changes in the education programmes. Since drastic changes and wide ranging effects were resulting from the adoption of the new economic and political orientation, it was necessary to provide new guidelines and rules governing the management of institutions of higher education.

The struggle continues: “a luta continua” !

The economic and political changes were progressively introduced with success through legislative and regulatory reforms. However, it has not been very easy to evenly change rules of social and cultural behaviour. In particular, vulnerable younger generations are the most affected by the rapid changes in society, while the reference model and values they expect from elder people in the modern Mozambican society seem to be shifting very fast. And in some instances, there seem to be no model at all. The new wave of economic liberalism in Mozambique, better defined by the popular concept of “deixa andar”, literally meaning “laisser-faire”, was mistakenly adopted as the guiding principle in the areas of social, cultural and education development.

The “laisser-faire” principle is better understood by economists and entrepreneurs in a system of open market and free entrepreneurship, under which the Government’s intervention is reduced to exercising minimum regulatory agency. The recent considerable economic growth realized by the Government of Mozambique (10% of successive growth index over four years) is attributed mainly to this free market policy. This principle should be carefully differentiated from “laisser-aller” which, in French language, rather means lack of discipline in academic, economic, social and cultural environments.
Reforming higher education institutions represents a real challenge, both at the institutional and pedagogic levels, not only in Mozambique, but elsewhere and in particular in African countries faced with the problem of “acculturation”. The youth seeking knowledge opportunities in national universities, polytechnics and higher institutes, where students are somehow left on their own, having no longer any need to be under permanent supervision of their parents or teachers, are disoriented. Since reforms in higher education institutions take longer than in any other institutional environment, it is necessary indeed to adopt adequate transitional measures to respond to urgent need of the young generations.

This essay reviews current trends and the recent historical background of higher education institutions of Mozambique. It argues against the adoption of the classical model of higher education from European and other western systems. In its final analysis, it finds that there is need to include ethical and deontology (social, cultural and moral education) components as priority sectors within the curriculum in higher education institutions, with a view to instill in the students and lecturers positive African values in general, and in particular, national Mozambican models. It is rejecting the neo-liberal thinking, which proposes that students in higher education institutions should be allowed to enjoy unlimited academic, social and intellectual uncontrolled independence, in conformity with western classical education and cultural orientation. It advocates for critical thinking and brainstorming on key issues towards the development of positive cultural and ethical models in higher education institutions which could be used to promote knowledge development and poverty eradication in the country’s rural areas and urban zones affected by unemployment, pandemics and economic precariousness.

The colonial legacy and its cultural impact on higher education in Mozambique.

Many experts have described the Mozambican mother of higher education as an institution for colonialists and “assimilados” . The first institution of higher education in Mozambique was established by the Portuguese government in 1962, soon after the start of the African wars of independence. It was called the General University Studies of Mozambique (Estudos Gerais Universitários de Moçambique EGUM). In 1968, it was renamed Lourenço Marques University. The university catered for the sons and daughters of Portuguese colonialists. Although the Portuguese government preached non-racism and advocated the assimilation of its African subjects to the Portuguese way of life, the notorious deficiencies of the colonial education system established under the Portuguese rule ensured that very few Africans would ever succeed in reaching university level. However, many educated African were led to adopt the colonial lifestyle.

In spite of Portugal’s attempts to expand African educational opportunities in the late 1960s and early 1970s, only about 40 black Mozambican students – less than 2 per cent of the student body -had entered the University of Lourenço Marques by the time of independence in 1975. The state and the university continued to depend heavily on the Portuguese and their descendants. Even the academic curriculum was defined according to the needs and policies defined long ago by the colonial power.
Soon after Independence in June 1975, the Government of Mozambique, from the FRELIMO party, adopted a Marxist-Leninist orientation and a centrally planned economy. The educational system was nationalized, and the university was renamed after Dr. Eduardo Mondlane, the first president of FRELIMO.

Many cadres trained in Portugal and other European and American universities came also with their own educational and cultural background. Apart from the Eduardo Mondlane University, new public and private universities and institutes were established. These include the Pedagogic University, the ISRI, the Catholic University, ISPU, ISCTEM and ISUTC. Most of these institutions adopted a curriculum clearly modeled on the classical European model. There is still need to integrate African traditional values in the course profiles offered and research programmes developed by these institutions.

The traditional role of a university is to enlighten and serve as a reference within the society: “illuminatio et salus populi”. Today, Mozambique is one of the most culturally and racially diversified society of Africa. This diversity should be considered as a cultural treasure for the nation. It has become however apparent that it’s more a “Babel Tower case”, as no unified Mozambican values appear to develop from this wide variety. With the creation of new public and private universities and new faculties, it would become easier to increase a critical mass of university lecturers and academic professionals, who would in their turn, influence the society, creating and instilling national positive values and ethical principles of conduct in the younger generations. According to many lecturers and students contacted at UEM, Universidade Pedagogica UP and UDM, the impact of higher education on the development of positive academic, scientific, social and cultural values in Mozambique is yet to be felt.

It is however necessary to acknowledge the importance of newly introduced community-based education programmes in some institutions. For instance the emphasis on community and service has guided curriculum development at the Catholic University; its course in agronomy (Cuamba) concentrates on peasant and family farming systems and leans heavily on research and outreach within local farming communities. The CU course in medicine (developed in collaboration with the University of Maastricht) which concentrates on teaching medicine, was particularly deemed appropriate for the rural and urban poor populations of Mozambique, as it is more based on problem-solving and focuses much more on traditional issues.

New Reforms in higher education institutions with a more participative approach

Mozambique is one of few countries in Africa where a new generation of leadership has stepped forward to articulate a vision for their institutions, inspiring confidence among those involved in higher education development and the modernization of their universities. In a series of case studies sponsored and published by the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa , it was confirmed that African universities covered by the studies have widely varying contexts and traditions. They are engaged in broad reform, examining and revising their planning processes, introducing new techniques of financial management, adopting new technologies, reshaping course structures and pedagogy, and more important, reforming practices of governance based in particular on their own contexts and traditions.

Important institutional reforms concerning the strategic planning experiences of the Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM) were initiated and implemented so far. Two strategic planning cycles were developed, the first in 1990 and the second one in 1996 / 97. The second one was meant to adapting to the impacts of newly adopted multi-party democracy, market competition, and globalization. Whereas the first reform cycle was the result of high level officials at the University, the second one was generated using a participatory methodology deemed to be more effective in involving the university staff in the process.

It is important to listen to everyone, and to be seen as listening. We are also convinced that various components of the population in Mozambique should be involved in the next phases of the process with a view to define what kind of education orientation the population would wish to have for their children.
There is important progress but yet limited academic impact on the development of the society
Considerable progress has been so far made in post-independence Mozambique. After the initial problems caused by the long years of civil war and then the long efforts necessitated by the adjustment to a market-driven economy and a multi-party democratic political order, Mozambique is now considered to have a higher education system that offers a wide variety of course options and extensive research opportunities. However, a major weakness highlighted by many observers is that all the institutions remain basically concentrated in the capital city of Maputo and its neighboring provinces. It is argued that they serve only a limited fraction of the Mozambican population, and are destined to train the elite of prominent people in government and in the professions, industry and commerce. It is also alleged that the majority of the students who succeed in entering public and private institutions of higher education are from relatively rich families.

It is finally emphasized that nearly 80 per cent of university students in Mozambique use Portuguese as their principal means of communication, thus strengthening the perception of establishing, reproducing and consolidating a hereditary elite, with model values copied on western societies. In response to this challenge, it was suggested that the government should encourage the emergence of new and non-traditional HEIs closer to the local communities, able to respond more rapidly and flexibly to the demands and expectations of the public and private sectors for a high quality trained workforce, while addressing both regional and socioeconomic imbalances in the country.

In our final analysis, we find that the impact of higher education institutions on the development and dissemination of traditional African social and cultural values would be very limited for a long period. As long as the access and feed-back from all levels of the society and regions will be left out of the core interaction with the highly educated elite and higher education institutions mainly concentrated in Maputo, the role of universities in promoting African positive values, a culture of academic ethics and deontology in the entire national society will be very limited.

The process of “Nation building” needs to rely on a strong academic support. One of the Government’s main constitutional commitments is to promote the development of the national culture and identity (article 115 of the 2004 Constitution). It is clear that many institutions, for instance the television, are actively promoting cultural diversity through various means. Institutions of higher education should be seen doing more, in particular starting with the students themselves and the academic community members, who are expected to be the light of the society. Such actions would include the integration of courses on ethics and deontology, and develop a wide-ranging variety of education models that reprove negative behavior and promote positive values. Our recommendation is that the Government should for example instruct public universities and other higher education institutions, to appoint “Ethics and Deontology Committees” at the level of their University Councils and within all autonomous faculties.

Bibliography

-Fry, Peter and Utui, Rogéro (1999), The Strategic Planning Experience at Eduardo Mondlane University, ADEA Working Paper on Higher Education, ADEA, Association for the Development of Education in Africa, Paris.

-Mouzinho, Mário ; Fry, Peter ; Levey, Lisbeth and Chilundo, Arlindo (2001), Higher Education in Mozambique: A Case study, The Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, New York University, New York

Education – We’re Failing Our Children

There are reams of reading and stacks of studies purporting to assess various problems of the United States’ educational system. Each problem turns out to be rooted in our individual failure to place an extremely high value on a solid education. Our failure contrasts sharply with societal values of China, India or Japan where admission to universities is a high calling and competition for scarce slots is fierce.

This failure to assign a high value to education is all too easily laid at the feet of society rather than each of us. Unfortunately, that approach allows individuals to escape responsibility for doing something to reverse the “… rising tide of mediocrity”, so well documented a whole generation ago by the National Commission on Excellence in Education.1 If we truly cared we would be working, really hard, to reverse that tide.

The numerous findings of the Commission as to content, expectations, time and teaching2 are more compelling today than they were then. Little has been done to: extend the school year or extend daily hours in school. Those remain the same. (note 10 infra) A full core of language, math and science for all students is not required and only a third of students study the solid subjects.3 Teacher pay remains low in comparison to other professional opportunities for college graduates.4 Dropouts are 30% or higher.5 The disproportionate influence of the education lobby continues.6

The consequences of a failed system are severe. Our kids won’t have good jobs. Their quality of life will decline, sharply. Our culture will lose international influence. Commerce does not wait. CEOs can hire better educated workers offshore to sustain value. Why should the rest of us wait at home?

In 2005 the prestigious ACT noted: “… the number of post secondary school graduates will not be sufficient to fill the more than 14 million new jobs that will be added to the labor market by 2008. And, leaving high school without being prepared … will cost our nation over $16 billion each year in remediation, lost productivity, and increased demands on criminal justice and welfare systems.”7

In 1984 thirty seven states had minimum competency tests for high school graduation. By 1995 the number was seventeen. The minimums have tended to become maximums, thus lowering standards for all.8 Today rank and file teachers say with some irony that “No Child Left Behind” is coming to mean “All Children Left Behind.”9

The organized time that children spend learning in school has remained static at 180 days per year and about 6 hours per day for a generation. By contrast, educators in China, with one fortieth the per capita GDP of the United States, have 8 hour school days in its poorest, worst educated province.10 Talk about valuing education!

The Commission also noted that a “… 1981 survey of 45 States revealed shortages of mathematics teachers in 43 States, critical shortages of earth sciences teachers in 33
States, and of physics teachers everywhere. This shortage persists. The percent of college graduates going into the teaching profession has continued to decline.11

One specific thing we can do is vote! Votes can emphasize values. Votes get the attention of those who make policy. Even though federal and state education policies tend to dominate, a critical link in our system of education is the independent nature of local school boards. Where voters in local districts can lead, those politics can also help to elect state and federal officials with values that can help.

In short, we need to build a better value system for education. Ask prospective School Board members; ask state and federal candidates what they will do, specifically, to raise the priority of, and fund, high quality education for our children. Elect and retain those with pro-education answers, and actions. Don’t vote for those whose talk — and actions — fail to show that education is a topmost priority.

As parents, we must tell our children we value education highly — and back those words with deeds. Teachers alone cannot be expected to change the value system of our society. The preeminent value we place on education must be clear in all our social interactions, and in our families. Even through poverty, divorce, and single parenthood, education must be sustained as a most important activity of family life. No electronic toys, or ipods, or play time, until all of the homework is done. No cell phone privileges unless grades are up to snuff. And we all can think of additional ways to drive home the point that hardly anything is more important to our children and their posterity than acquiring a quality education. Learning well is simply essential to their future.12

Citations:

1 A Nation At Risk: National Commission on Excellence in Education; April 1983
2 ibid: Findings; also following Note 10 re teacher shortages
3 Courses Count: ACT 2005 (American College Testing, formerly)
4 USCA: New Teachers and Old Pay Structures; 2002
5 Manhattan Institute: High School Graduation Rates in the U.S.; 2001
6 American Behavioral Scientist: The Political Context of Higher Education; 2000
7 ACT: Courses Count; Preparing Students for Post Secondary Success; 2005
8 Synthesis Report 20; NCEO 1995
9 Desert Sands Unified School District: Author interviews; 2006-2007
10 The Education Sector; Washington D.C. and IUCN Asia Directorate; 2001 (Ghizou; Lowest urban GDP/worst education)
11 Opportunity in Education
12 Author David L. Smith is retired from a dual career in local government and in business. He has owned a company, served as Chairman and CEO of a ten-university consortium doing technology transfers, and as County Administrator for one of California’s largest counties. He is state certified as a guest teacher, grades K-12, for his local school district.

Setting Priorities – A Must For Homeschooling Moms

Why do we need to set priorities? The Bible says “Without a vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). To apply this verse to our daily lives means to say that without a plan we just meander through the days, weeks, and years, dabbling at this and that, but never accomplishing a lot. When we have a plan, a vision, or a list of priorities, we are more likely to get stuck in and do it. I want to live my life with purpose, to set and achieve some goals, not to merely survive day by day. To do this I need to think through my priorities – what are the really important things, and what is the order of their importance?

So many opportunities are offering themselves to me as a homeschooler – swimming lessons, art and craft sessions, a mothers’ group, outings of every description. Then there are family and friends to visit, church and other groups to be involved in. How do I have the time to do everything? Quite simply, I don’t. I don’t have time for everything, therefore I must have a system for deciding which things to be involved in and which things to say “No” to. God knows how many hours are in a day!! He does not expect us to be exhausted at the end of every day. Trying to do too much will cause us to become burned out and sick. Because He knows how many hours are in a day, He will not ask us to do more than we can cope with. Sure, we must learn to do things in His strength. When we are weak, He is strong – I am not saying every day will be easy or that we should be able to breeze through each day with no effort. Homeschooling, training our children, and managing our homes is hard work.

What I am saying is that we can make ourselves too busy, if we try to do more than God is asking us to. I have found staying home most of the time, with a few selected activities, is far more productive in the long run. One of my priorities is to have a peace-filled home. That does not happen if I am constantly rushing the children out the door to go somewhere. So setting this priority in my mind helps me to make decisions about outings.

So what are some of these priorities?

Time with God

This has to be our first priority. I know when I am trying to do things in my own strength that I cannot be the loving, kind, patient mother that I wish to be! I once knew a lady with two small children who said to me “The Bible says God gently leads those with young, so I think He carries us through these years when we don’t have time to spend with Him”. She didn’t make time for her relationship with the Lord – but this didn’t make her less busy! She found it difficult to cope with the stress of being a mother – if only she had taken time to seek God’s strength and enabling, how much better her life (and that of her family) could have been.

Every morning I commit my day to the Lord, asking Him to fill me with His love and His strength. I ask Him what He would have me do today. Sometimes a thought will come into my mind from Him – something I hadn’t planned to do, and would not have thought of myself, but I know He wants me to do it when this happens. Imagine an army going out to battle without first being given their orders – or an employee beginning work without first finding out what his boss would like him to do. Just so, we need to go to the Lord and find out His plans for our day. We also need to be refreshed and filled so that we have something to give. We cannot give out of an empty tank! We need to soak in the Lord’s presence each morning, to be assured of who we are in Him, so that we can reflect his love to our family and those we meet. There are so many things I want to be – wise, patient, loving, gentle, kind, generous, – and all I really need is to be like Jesus. He is all I need to be. I am crucified with Christ, it is Him who lives in me. Each day I need to remind myself of this, and choose to live the day with this in mind.

Mary and Martha are a great example to me – I’m sure all busy mothers can identify with Martha, who was rushing around being busy. However, she was also worrying and fussing – which is what Jesus rebuked her for. He did not tell her off for working hard. He said “Martha, Martha, you are worried and concerned about so many things, but Mary has chosen the better part”. Mary had chosen to sit at Jesus’ feet. My desire is, even when I am busy, to have an attitude of peace, of listening to Jesus, of resting in Him. I choose to quit my fretting and anxiety over many things, and instead to trust Him and be calm and peaceful.

I know how hard it is to make time for a “quiet time” in a busy household. Living in a two room shed, it is impossible for me to wake up earlier than my family. When one is up, everyone wakes up. So we are straight into breakfast and on with the day. However, I have found my space – after breakfast when the children’s chores are underway I go out to the goat shed to milk the goats. This is when I come before the Lord. I cannot read my Bible – I do that later, in the evening – but I can quote memorized verses. I can also sing, and pray. Can I encourage you, too, whatever your circumstances, to make meeting with God your first priority. Be creative – I don’t think God expects an hour long Bible study every day – it is your relationship with Him that matters.

Some possibilities: Take a walk – even with little ones in tow you can commune with the Lord if you take your thoughts captive and use the moments when the children are not talking to you! Sing and pray in the shower. Have a family prayer time. Give your children some quiet activities and let them know you are not available (unless in emergency) for a few minutes. Center your thoughts on the Lord, sing and pray while you do housework.

Husband’s wishes

Eve was created to be a helper suitable for her husband. (That is what “help meet” means). Likewise, we are told in Titus 2:4 to love our husbands, and in verse 5 to be obedient to our husbands. I want to make it a priority to try and do what my husband wants me to. If he asks me to do something specific, I do it at the earliest opportunity. I do this because I want to be helpful to him, I want to honor him, in doing so I also hon our and obey God. It is also a priority to keep my attitude towards my husband right.

I want to be a blessing to my husband, and so his needs are high on my priority list. Apart from promptly doing any specific things he asks me to, I also keep in mind the way he likes things. If your husband likes a tidy house you need to make it a priority to tidy up before he comes home from work. If he likes dinner at a certain time, make sure it is ready then, at least most of the time. Try to look ahead and see the things you know he would like you to do. Make time when he comes home to make him a hot drink and sit down to listen to him talk about his day (save all your news that you’re bursting to tell until after he has unwound). Remember, he has just been out working all day to support you and the children. He needs to feel appreciated and he also needs his home to be a welcome haven from the world. Make it a priority to have your husband look forward to getting home each evening.

My attitude

It is my priority to have a good attitude! I need to choose to smile at my children – to let them know many times a day how much they are unconditionally loved. I want my home to be a welcoming place to everyone who visits it. My attitude will set the tone for the home. If I am snappy, the children will be too. I need to make sure I keep a cheerful attitude towards my work. It is my responsibility to manage my home – not that I have to do all the work myself – I can delegate! However, when I recognize the fact that the responsibility is mine, I can then concentrate on getting the job done, not waiting for someone else to do it.

Children’s needs

Let’s break these down into three categories:

1 Emotional and Spiritual

My children’s greatest need, as I have already mentioned, is to know they are loved. To bask in my approval, to be encouraged by my smile, to be inspired to greatness, to learn there are consequences for their actions (both good and bad), are the things my children need from me each day.

Most importantly, they need a growing relationship with God – this should be a high priority for us – to see that they are getting spiritually fed each day. We need to reflect Christ in our own lives, for our children will learn from our example more than by our carefully thought out curriculum.

First-time obedience should be a priority in your home. When disobedience is allowed to creep in the parent becomes frustrated, and eventually angry at the child. Disobedience should be dealt with calmly and firmly when it first manifests itself. When it is nipped in the bud consistently the child learns to be obedient the first time he is asked. Consistency is essential to good parenting and is a wonderful exercise in self-discipline for the parent! Often it is easier to just raise your voice and repeat yourself, but in the long run this produces children who wait until your voice has reached that certain pitch, or you have repeated it enough times that he knows you’re going to blow up if you have to say it again, before he obeys. He becomes conditioned to your responses. Therefore the best response is to expect him to obey the first command. When children are trained in this way it is seldom necessary to need to discipline. Children are secure in the knowledge of their boundaries, and this is very reassuring to a child.

2 Physical

Of course, they need their physical needs met each day also – and so we need to do the practical things like preparing food, washing clothes, etc. They need to be trained to do all these practical things for themselves also. Our children should be well equipped for life when they leave our homes. Other physical needs include fresh air and exercise, and not to be cooped up inside all day. They need time to play, both alone, and together with their siblings.

3 Educational

They also need an education, and so we provide learning opportunities.

As each child has a different destiny their educational needs will differ from each other. We need to seek to know our children individually, and ask God for wisdom to decide what sort of knowledge they are going to need.

To begin with, all children need to know how to read, write, and do maths. These are a foundation for all other learning. Once a person can do these things they can educate themselves on all manner of different avenues. And so, until these skills are mastered, they will be the priority in my teaching. We may learn about all sorts of other things at the same time, but I will concentrate on these skills and purpose to get my children fluent in these first of all.

The character qualities we wish to instill into our children must also be high on the priorities list. There is no point raising an academically brilliant child if they do not care for others, have good manners, etc.

As mentioned above, we also need to purposely train them in practical skills. A lot of these skills will be learned as part of daily life, but some things will take an effort on your behalf to train your children to do. It is usually quicker and easier, for example, to bake by yourself, but in order for your children to learn this life skill you must take the time to show them how, and let them practice by doing it themselves.

My needs

Somewhere in your priority list needs to be set aside time for you! You need to set limits for what you are able to accomplish. Be prepared to say “No” to some requests. You are not superwoman – recognize your limitations and set your boundaries to prevent exhaustion. Try to get some times of refreshment for yourself every so often. Do you like to do a hobby? Visit with a friend? Have a date with your husband? Sit quietly by yourself in a cafe? Whatever it is that will bring a lift to your life when you’re feeling there USN’t much left to give – you need to take the time to do it. Just as a car needs fuel to keep it going, you cannot continue to give emotionally from an “empty tank”. Take some time to “re-fuel”.

I am not talking about being selfish, and robbing your family of your time because “it is my right to some time out”. I do not mean to put your children in daycare while you play tennis twice a week. We are called to be a “living sacrifice”, and the work we do is demanding and tiring. Work hard, but also remember that the Lord gives his loved ones rest.

Home management

To be able to work in our homes efficiently, our homes need to be organized. We need to spend time daily on maintaining the orderliness of our homes. Our children must be trained to help us in this task. Not only is it too much work for one Mother to do, it does our children a disservice if they are allowed to make the mess which we clean up. Housework does not rank terribly high on my ideal priority list, and yet it can take up so much time! I would so much rather spend all day teaching my children, or taking a walk, or, in fact almost anything else – and yet it is necessary to my sanity to keep my house at least reasonably tidy. We now spend about an hour after breakfast doing “chores” (if children tend to dawdle, I make them do the chores before breakfast – this hurries them up!) The children have some each, and I have some. All daily chores are divided between us. The children are responsible to keep their own room tidy, plus one area of the house. They swap “area” on a weekly basis. We also each have a list of “Weekly Chores” – things that only need doing once a week. These can be done at any time during the week, but if they’re not done by Saturday, we must do them then. Then again just before dinner in the evening, we have another set of tidying chores each. To begin this system I had to sit down and list every job that needed doing, then decide how often, and who should do it. Every so often I try to look at each job and ask myself if there is a more efficient way to get this job done. I sometimes read books on home management to help me to do things better/quicker, there are a lot of good ideas to be found in books or on the Internet.

Outside commitments

This section may sound like a contradiction, but really I just want you to think carefully about your motivation for what you are involved in.

Firstly, if you have outside commitments, you must ask yourself if God wants you doing them at all. Sure, they can be good things – volunteer work, church work, organizing homeschool group events – but be aware that the good can prevent us from the best. In other words we can get so busy with “good” things, that the best that God has planned for us is simply crowded out. We don’t have time to read books to our children, or to look at a sunset, or listen to our husbands, or to help our neighbor. Sometimes God does call us to have outside commitments – but you must be sure it is a “God calling”. You must also be very careful to keep it in balance with your family commitments.

God wants us to be involved in our families. He also wants us to be salt and light in the world. Sometimes our whole family can be involved in ministry together. I feel this is a better option than the mother having a “ministry” that takes her from her home.

We are to be Christ’s hands and feet. We are to take care of the poor, the widow and the orphan. We are to be hospitable. We must be involved in the Lord’s work. But let us take our children along with us, they are our apprentices – then we can accomplish two things at once – taking the gospel into the world on one hand, and training our children to do likewise on the other. We must make room in our priority list for other people.

GETTING PRACTICAL

OK. To make your own list of priorities you need to ask yourself what is most important to you. What do you want to accomplish? Daily? Weekly? Yearly? In your lifetime? Then you need a plan for how to go about it. Let’s start with some questions. Please write your answers and spend some time thinking and praying about your responses.

  • What is of lasting value?
  • When I look back in 20 – 30 years time what would I like to have done well at?
  • When I look back at the end of my life what do I not want my regrets to be?
  • “I wish I had spent more time….”
  • “I wish I had….”
  • ” I wish I hadn’t….”
  • What things would you like to change about your life? (Must be possible – don’t list any things you personally do not have the ability to change).
  • What heritage do you want to pass on to your children?
  • What do you want to be remembered for?

Reading back over this article, list in order the most important things, in your opinion. Feel free to add your own ideas to your list.

Make sub-headings under each item in your list. List in order the most important things under each heading. For example, “Educating children” may be fourth on your list. In this new list, write down in order what you want to teach your children.

Now you have quite a list – your own list of priorities. In future when you have decisions to make you can refer back to your list. Use it to keep you on track. When an opportunity arises, for example, to be involved in a sports team, you can look on your list and see where on your priority list this would fall. You can also look at what priorities come before this one, and consider whether the time involved in the sports team would crowd out some of your more important priorities, or whether this is something you feel would help you to reach your goals.

By referring often to this list you will be able to see whether you are, in fact, reaching your targets, or whether you are not accomplishing what you would like to. When this happens, you can re-consider your activities to see what needs to be given up, so that the things you consider more important will be attained.

A daily/weekly plan or schedule can be helpful to get done what you want to do. This way you can be sure that your most important priorities are covered every day. Always remember, however, that your schedule is a tool, and not your taskmaster. Be flexible enough to not fret when your day doesn’t go according to plan.

May God bless you as you seek His plans for your life.

Need more help with setting priorities or becoming organized? Visit my webpage “Priorities”, under “Homemaking” in the navigation bar.