• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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PTAs struggling to maintain roles in Nigerian schools

PTAs struggling to maintain roles in Nigerian schools

…As value erosion, Western influence take toll

…They are still relevant despite challenges – School owners

Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) have been a vital component of Nigeria’s education system for decades. They play a vital role in Nigeria’s education sector, bridging the gap between parents, teachers, and the community.

The PTA exists in almost every secondary school in Nigeria. It is an ideal association whose contributions are channeled toward the management of education. Through such meetings, parents can learn about the classroom programmes which have been planned for or is being managed.

They are essential for improving communication, student welfare, fundraising, community engagement, and teacher support within the education sector.

However, the erosion of values in society and increasing influence of Western culture seem to be impacting negatively on the important roles that PTAs play in schools.

Speaking to BusinessDay Sunday on some of the observations that tend to show that things are no longer the same, a school proprietor in Lagos, said that the parents who are members of the PTA, are the same that go to school to fight a teacher because their child was disciplined by the teacher.

“When we were growing up in those days, the word of the teacher was final. A teacher can flog a student if he had a good reason to do so, and when that pupil goes home, he or she would also receive additional punishment from the parents for the same reason he or she was flogged by the teacher. They would even commend the teacher. But what do we see today, parents, who are members of the school PTA will storm the school to question why his or her child was disciplined. For me, whatever any financial contribution a parent makes to a school but shows a bad behaviour that is capable of ruining the life of his or her child amounts to nothing.

“When we were growing up, the decision of a PTA on any matter in school was final. The parents and teachers worked as a team to bring up responsible people in society,” the proprietor said on condition of anonymity.

Francis Ayodele, a lecturer with a college in Lagos, said that although the PTA has continued to be part of the school system, some parents seem to have lost the true essence of the association.

“We have a situation nowadays where parents pull out their children from their schools because the school refused to aid them in examination fraud. We see situations where parents are picking fights and quarrels with school owners for not allowing their children to engage in harmful practices. The erosion of values in the Nigerian society is really causing a lot of problem.

“What do we say of a situation where some parents would insist that their children are given double promotions above their capacities? They want the children to graduate before their time, and if the school refuses, they begin to make trouble, and sometimes pull such children out. We are seeing a lot,” Ayodele said.

On the influence of the Western culture on the role of the PTA, Kate Nnodum, a trained counsellor, blamed some of the indiscipline in schools nowadays on some parents that have travelled to the West.

“I think what is happening is a total refusal on the part of the so-called ‘exposed’ parents to accept that our culture differs from that of the West. When they travel, the see that nobody flogs a pupil or even talk roughly to any pupil in the class. They forgot how they themselves were brought up in those days. Some of us were raised with iron hands in schools, and that’s probably why we became what we are today. We must not adopt everything we see outside as ideal; that wholesale adoption of such cultures is negatively impacting on the education system of our country,” Nnodum said.

Despite some of the ills that tend to taint the good roles of PTAs, some educational practitioners, who spoke with BusinessDay Sunday said they remain relevant in the system.

Speaking with BusinessDay, an entrepreneur who owns a group of schools in Ilasamaja area of Lagos State said that the school enjoys the cooperation of parents.

“The parents are an integral part of the school. We enjoy their cooperation. They even donate whenever we have some special events. They give us useful pieces of advice on how to go about certain issues. I must tell you that the two buildings we have today, it was through parents that we got the land. For us, it has been great with our parents,” the proprietress said on condition of anonymity.

Badru Saleh, proprietor, The Source Schools, Lagos told BusinessDay SUNDAY said that PTAs raise funds to support school projects, events, and initiatives, augmenting government funding and enhancing the learning environment.

“PTAs show appreciation for teachers’ efforts and provide support through professional development opportunities and resources,” Saleh said.

However, Saleh disclosed that some schools do not get along easily with their PTAs on the back of some fundamental issues that are critical to the school’s survival.

According to him, low attendance and participation in PTA meetings and activities hinder the association’s effectiveness, which in some cases result in insufficient funding that limits the association’s ability to execute projects and support schools adequately.

“Inadequate communication between parents, teachers, and school administrators can lead to misunderstanding and ineffective collaboration, and in some cases, PTAs sometimes face interference from political or bureaucratic interests, which could compromise their autonomy and effectiveness,” Saleh said.

According to him, cultural and socio-economic barriers are other issues that most PTAs contend with in their day-to-day operations. He said that diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds often create challenges in building a cohesive and inclusive PTA.

‘PTAs still relevant in Nigeria’s education sector’

While the Parent-Teacher-Associations play an advisory role in the school management process, its role in the overall education pyramid cannot be overemphasised. Though as an advisory organisation in the school management hierarchy; PTAs complement government initiatives by providing additional resources and support to enhance education outcomes.

Accordingly, the association in its advisory role also promotes community involvement, empower and support teachers. PTAs encourage community participation by fostering a sense of responsibility and ownership of the education of their children within the school setting.

In empowering parents to take an active role in their children’s education, the association helps in improving students’ outcomes and well-being. Similarly, PTAs provide support and resources to enhance teachers’ effectiveness, to demonstrate appreciation for teachers’ dedication.

“In my opinion, as both a parent and teacher, the PTA is the bedrock of a functioning nursery, primary and secondary school. Without the PTA, almost all sections of the school mentioned above will lack advisory roles on the way forward and certain developmental assistance with the already established structure on ground,” Maxwell Audu, a Lagos-based teacher, told BusinessDay SUNDAY.

According to him, most school proprietors do not have the welfare of their staff in mind. However, good and functional PTA groups cover up such lapses and help schools at the verge of collapse.

“I will say that the relevance of the PTA in the education sector is a welcome idea, because there’s the saying that ‘two good heads are better than one.’”

He however, added that removing the PTA from the overall school working system will result in removing development and growth from the schools, and teachers’ welfare.

According to Saleh, PTAs contribute to students’ holistic development through extracurricular activities, character-building programmes, and welfare initiatives.

“Though, we have few students whose results weren’t a true reflection of their ability, it is an indictment not only on the quality of teaching that our schools now offer but also the failure of parents in showing interest in the academic journey of their children,” he said.

PTAs’ role in students’ development

Beyond contributing to the overall management of the school system in Nigeria, PTAs have also played an effective role in enhancing students’ development. According to some media specialists, PTAs participation in the development, design and management of education resource centres has been one of the most effective contributions of the association to students’ development.

PTAs often sponsor and organise extracurricular activities, such as sports, clubs, and cultural events, which foster students’ talents, skills, and interests outside the regular curriculum. By providing these opportunities, PTAs play a vital role in shaping students’ overall development, helping them grow into well-rounded, confident, and responsible individuals.

Furthermore, PTAs contribute to character-building initiatives of the school system by supporting programs that promote values, ethics, and social responsibility that helps students develop essential life skills and a strong moral compass.

“Parent-Teacher Association is important o; because the school and the parent are already in partnership and they must collaborate to get the best out of the children. The parents and teachers need each other to carry out their responsibility of impacting and forming the child,” Blessing Abuya Akhaine, faculty, Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja, told BusinessDay SUNDAY.

According to her, regular meetings will reduce parents and school misunderstandings. She further said that parents need to be carried along with school programmes and policies to get a better result.

“When assignment or task is given in school, it is cool that the parents supervise and ensure the children implement and carry it out or do the homework. When the child keeps hearing the same instructions at home and in school it helps send the message seriously into the child,” Akhaine said.

Speaking further, she disclosed that constant meetings between both parties also help develop the school and make it more grounded and conducive for the learners to thrive.

“Sometimes, through the PTA, parents can support and take up or finance projects that their kids will later benefit from. The child knows he is being watched left and right; so, it helps to cut down bad tendencies and it brings the best out of the child,” she said.

Similarly, in its contribution to building character and learning of the students, PTAs provide resources and support for academic enrichment programs, such as tutoring, mentoring, and study groups, which help students excel academically.

While Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) have numerous benefits, there are also potential downsides to their contribution to the school management ecosystem. Oftentimes, there is the challenge of the PTAs focusing excessively on fundraising, diverting attention from other essential issues, like academic quality and student welfare.

Similarly, there is a tendency for the PTAs to prioritise the interests of more involved or vocal parents, potentially neglecting the needs of other students. Their activity may add to teachers’ workload, which could impact their ability to focus on teaching.

Also, there is always the potential fear of inequitable funding by PTAs that may result in uneven distribution of funds to favour some section of the schools with more active parents’ participation in the association’s activities.

According to Audu, it is important to acknowledge the potential downsides of the association and strive for balanced, inclusive, and effective PTA practices that benefit the entire school community.

Audu said that there is usually overreliance on PTA by public schools, especially in rural and some semi-urban areas. He said that rather than advocate for adequate government funding, school authorities rely heavily on PTAs to bridge essential resources within the school system.

Similarly, because of the reliance on volunteers, there is a potential burnout or fatigue for the few parents that present themselves for the association’s activities, which often impact the association’s effectiveness in meeting the needs of the school they represent.