BURNING POT BY DR. PRINCE CHARLES DICKSON

 

My small journey as PTA Chairman

pcdbooks@yahoo.com

 

Being the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) Chairman in Nigeria and of course a Nigerian school with Nigerian parents and management can be a rewarding and challenging experience. It involves serving as a bridge between parents, teachers, and the school administration to ensure effective communication, collaboration, and the overall welfare of students.

 

For me, it was six years of exciting learning experience, and my apologies, I am not going to talk about the Mmesoma Joy Ejikeme and JAMB Saga, but I will share my journey, an adventure, we could all learn a few nuggets.

 

Some key aspects of the role and my experience:

 

Communication and Engagement: As PTA Chairman, one of the primary responsibilities is to facilitate communication between parents, teachers, and the school. This includes organizing meetings, workshops, and events where parents can voice their concerns, provide feedback, and actively participate in decision-making processes. Engaging parents in school activities and fostering a sense of community is crucial for a successful PTA. I won’t say that I scored a 100 or even a 90 but I learned a lot, from parents that barely attended the meetings, or parents that adopted a single parent method, (as in only one parent ever attended the meetings, in cases, siblings acted as parents, one day, I will hopefully talk about the trend where parents where parents have abdicated their responsibilities to everyone but themselves).

 

I did a sizable amount of advocacy and representation: Representing the collective interests of parents and advocating for their needs and concerns is an essential role of the PTA Chairman. This involves liaising with school management, attending board meetings, and actively participating in discussions and decision-making processes. Advocating for improved educational standards, infrastructure, and policies ensures that parents' voices are heard and their children's needs are prioritized. This never was an easy task as it exposed one to a lot of the behind the scene politics of our educational systems.

 

The decay, the fight to maintain standards and more, parents wanted friendly pocket tuition, schools needed to pay teachers and run allied costs, whether there was a meeting is debate for another day, on another day and on the other hand, there was the ‘crooked’ regulatory ministries and their various officials all fleecing the system, everyone developing one fraudulent fee or the other.

 

Despite the best of efforts, I saw that there was a lack of teacher training programs.

 

The quality and cost of good teachers brought with it peculiar challenges, a need to align goals, and create a conducive learning environment. Teaching itself has become a bus stop profession, how many were there for the passion, many wolves in sheep clothing being in charge of our kids don’t make for good reading when the parents themselves are nowhere to be found until there is a palaver.

 

We did not do much in terms of Parent Education and Involvement: Promoting parent education programs and workshops that enhance their understanding of education, child development, and parenting techniques is an important responsibility. Encouraging parents to actively participate in school activities, volunteering their time and expertise, and supporting their children's learning at home fosters a strong partnership between parents and the school is important, but what is really in practice is a case where every parent worships his/her child, no child was ever wrong.

 

I saw first-hand, the “my child is good” and the “I know my child” syndrome at play, you begin to wonder so the bad kids where do they fall from, I noticed first hand as kids brought fall outs from home to school, I saw parents who were in behaviour no better than their kids. Parents who knew next to nothing other than simply birthing kids.

 

Conflict Resolution and Mediation: Resolving conflicts and addressing disputes that may arise within the PTA or between parents, teachers, and the school administration is a challenging yet critical aspect of the role. Acting as a mediator, facilitating constructive dialogue, and finding amicable solutions help maintain a harmonious and productive school environment. For me, this was where the real tasks hibernated.

 

These kids are smart, they know certainly more than we know or will ever know, there is only that tiny consolation in the adage of “what the old man sees while sitting, the child will never see even while on top of a tree”. And truth be told, these kids will always make nonsense of the above, the kinds of stories that touch “no be here”.

 

A teacher was so frustrated with a pupil, she complained that the boy did not pay much attention when she was teaching and he disturbed other pupils and fought them. The boy's mother came to the school to pick him up, and the teacher met her and told her about the boy's behaviour. It became a fight; the mother insulted the teacher that she did not know what she was saying that her child is a quiet and good boy at home. We later discovered that the woman’s children don't play at home and were not permitted to go out and meet other children.

 

Therefore, school was the only way he got to express his real character. If children do not properly express themselves in the house, you will not know what they can do and cannot do. School rather than a place of learning became a playing field for the lad.

 

We had parents that wanted an only board facility, we had parents that would never leave their kids for more than those 7 hours of school time, we had those that wanted six teachers for one subject, and those that wanted their kids to be breast fed.

 

Some kids honestly had no business being in high school at a certain age, but you see every parent was a professor of parenting in their own right. We had kids that told lies, and to their parents, these kids were St. Innocent and could do no wrong. I can tell you, some parents I never knew and of course they never would have known me. Once at a meeting a parent boldly suggested we get a favourable centre to take kids to, I later found out it is called a “miracle centre”. I witnessed teachers come and go, for all sorts of reasons and no reasons. I also saw management renege on their promises, the same way parents broke their promises on paying up their ward's school fees as we call it in these parts.

 

My experience as PTA Chairman has been both fulfilling and demanding. For me, I see the need for an education policy that communicates, that is diplomatic, and has the ability to balance diverse perspectives and interests.

 

The opportunity to contribute to the educational development of children, create a positive school culture, and witness the impact of collective efforts is truly rewarding. However, it also comes with challenges, such as managing conflicting opinions, addressing limited resources, and ensuring sustainable parent involvement. Overall, serving as PTA Chairman in Nigeria is a significant responsibility that plays a vital role in promoting a conducive learning environment and fostering strong parent-school partnerships.

 

I wish I could say the same of our leaders across various strata in the Nigerian Leadership—Citizenship Forum conversation especially around good governance, leadership ideals, and delivery, while that is not yet the case, I dare say—May Nigeria win!