As a nation, we have never failed to highlight the important role mothers play in their children's academic success. After all, they are the ones most likely to be registering their children at school, helping them with assignments, attending Parent Teachers' Association meetings, cheering on the sidelines as they engage in sporting and cultural activities, and nursing them back to good health when the flu makes it impossible to go to school.
But there are some fathers who take the same level of interest in their children's lives. Their role goes beyond merely financing school fees and trips, and is instead very hands-on. In the next few weeks, we will highlight some of these dads who have been able to achieve a healthy balance of being financier and nurturer, so that their children can achieve their best.
HIS daughter, he says, is his legacy to the rest of the world, and like any prized possession, Robert Allen has ensured that his only child Aleiqué is given all the love and support she needs to flourish, even if his ability to do so has meant changing career paths so he could spend more time at home with her.
"For me, my daughter is my main priority. She is the gem of my life. You need money to ensure that the gem shines, but at the same time, you can't let the pursuit of money cause the gem to get dull either. So you have to make the critical decision right there and then, which one is more important," the father said.
To that end, he did not seek to have his contract as a project building officer at the Ministry of Education renewed when Aleiqué was a tot, but instead opened a home-based business — Pioneer Home Improvement Services Construction Company. That gave him time to attend PTA meetings, have frequent consultations with her teachers, take her to and from school and cart her from one extra-curricular activity to the next — dancing, netball, sign language, table tennis, and music.
Aleiqué, who just recently graduated from Immaculate Conception High School having earned 10 distinctions in the most recent sitting of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations, also played in her school's symphony orchestra.
"Even when she was a young child coming up, I said 'Baby, you are going to learn music you know. Do you know why daddy wants you to learn music? Music will improve your brain and music energises the right side of your brain, which will expand your thinking capabilities. Learning a foreign language again does the same thing, it stimulates the creative side of your brain," he said.
Allen said he and his wife Rose have been very involved in all aspects of their daughter's school life ever since she was a pre-schooler.
"There is nothing about her education that I am not directly or indirectly involved with. The only thing that maybe I have not been directly involved with is her choice of university," the father told Career & Education, explaining that he decided to leave that decision up to his daughter since she is on the brink of adulthood.
That aside, however, he recalls many days spent with her working on school projects and solving mathemical problems.
"Even before prep school, her mother and I would basically be there to guide her with her homework. At pre-school age we would have been doing most of it, but our approach was: she must learn, and as such, if she has a mathematical problem, for argument's sake, and she can't figure it out, instead of doing that problem for her, I would create a parallel problem and we would go through it and get to the result and then say: 'now that we have given you an example, go and solve that one'," he explained.
The self-professed computer fanatic said his input in his daughter's academic pursuits was especially crucial at the beginning of her prep school years when she was not yet fully capable of conducting Internet-based research.
"So I would do the research and find the different features and the different articles and put together those that I think make sense and then I would copy all of them into one and we would sit down and read through them. I would then say, 'alright, which one do you want? Which one do you think you would want to give to your teacher? You will have to pick it out, you have to play some part," he said.
The father said he has made it a point of duty to not only find out what subjects his daughter is studying, but also to know the specific topics being taught in each subject area. As such, he met frequently with her teachers, who he said are also critical members of the "get Aleiqué educated and developed team".
"Every single teacher who taught my daughter at prep school knows me because I introduced myself to them, and I told them exactly what I was expecting from them and I let them tell me what they expected from us, and we worked together," he pointed out.
Allen said he and his wife have always reinforced the fact that they are their daughter's best friend, and so he said, like any friends, they talk to her openly about issues that are crucial to her development, even those that typical teenagers don't always want to discuss with their parents. They also enjoy social activities together and that has helped to further strengthen the bond they have as a family.