The young students aged 16-19 selected to take part in African Leadership Academy’s (ALA’s) two-year pre-university diploma programme are bestowed with an enormous responsibility to consider sustainable and innovative solutions to Africa’s challenges. The scholars leave their homes and families for a long time and while mature enough to do this, still need the deep connections to their caregivers to sustain their spirits. It’s this reason that Dean Emeritus Uzo Agyare-Kumi founded the ALA DiJen Africa Parents Association. The association has grown to enable parents to establish their own networks with other families and to become fully-fledged ALA ambassadors. We ask Agyare-Kumi some questions about her unique initiative.
Q: What does DiJen mean?
“DiJen”, an Amharic word from Ethiopia, means foundation or support. This word is symbolic of the work we will do together to make ALA that much stronger during a student’s years with us. As a volunteer support base, the ALA parents are guided by our initiatives to embrace the value of their fellow community of parents and have life-long engagement with them. This fosters a network where opportunities can be shared. So it’s not only the young charges that establish this, but the parents too.
Q: You spoke about parent “country chapters.” What do you envisage here?
This decentralises the association, and parents can forge their own paths in their home countries, using the ALA model of participation and entrepreneurial thinking. They create unique forums. In 2016, we started with the creation of three chapters in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.
Parents are focused on building their respective chapter’s capacity by reaching out to other parents and developing key leadership structures for their chapters. These are exciting times for our parents who understand ALA’s mission and are keen to play an active role in ensuring it is achieved.
Q: What are their goals and what do they discuss?
Each chapter at present is tasked to build their parent capacity and to reach as many ALA parents past and current as possible. This is by no means an easy task. Thankfully, our parents are responding to our initiative for parental engagement. Once our chapters are fully functional, ALA DiJen Africa seeks to organise programs and events that build a scholastic and social community that further support the Academy’s overall mission and objectives in country.
Q: What is the role of parents in their children’s studies and in the ALA as a whole?
Their mission is to support and engage with their children and to meaningfully engage in their programmes and projects. This provides a thriving foundation for students. Then, as parents connect with each other, they form their own networks in their home countries, Africa and beyond.
Parents will enjoy the benefits of supportive relationships with students and staffulty. They will develop deep and lasting personal and professional relationships with other families. While all parents of the ALA past, present and incoming parents fundamentally become members of DiJen Africa, we encourage them to become active members by mentoring students, attending meetings, volunteering for opportunities of interest and offering input on how we can enrich our programs.
We have come to understand that because of generational social challenges, our students and alumni may not have acquired enough social capital and exposure to suitable opportunities after they graduated from school. from college. We see parents as a resource to connect and inspire our student’s education through support and empowerment beyond the classroom
Q: Is there a specific set of criteria to be a part of the association?
Every parent whose son or daughter has graduated in the Diploma program and is an alumni of ALA Alumni Association is a member of the Association. Parents from other ALA program such as GSP or Catalyst program are also members of DiJen Africa.
Q: How difficult has it been to coordinate efforts since parents are from all over Africa? How do you meet the challenges?
We are limited by resources and so use technology to get most of our work done. We have monthly conference calls and have a whatsapp group for each country as well as one for the parents’ ambassador group – the latter a mentoring program to support new parents during ALA admissions cycles.
Q: Are there specific roles in the parents’ association?
We ask of our parents to do one or more of these:
- Parent Ambassadors: Be an information resource for prospective parents, as you take on various roles, depending on your time and interests.
- Host a Family: Offer our students and alumni a supportive off-campus contact, ready with advice, friendship, an occasional refuge, or a home-cooked meal within your region.
- Network Recruiter: Partner with our Careers and Internship Program ACN to provide employment and internship opportunities.
- Parent Fundraising: Encourage and support generous participation in fundraising activities.
- Host an ALA Event in your country: Support our graduates attending university or working abroad by hosting an event.
Get involved. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.