Daniel A. Wankar
Business Education Department,
College of Education, Katsina-Ala, Benue State
PTA as a recent development in the Nigerian educational system provides enabling environment for developing quality education by serving as a link between the school and home, resource centres, raising development funds, fighting indiscipline, etc. VTE, administered under public school supervision and control, is yet to fully benefit from these PTA organisations which are battling with a myriad of problems such as poor membership, lack of interest on the part of members, corruption, and manipulation of PTA affairs. This article argues that if PTAs are properly re-positioned through application of incentives and rewards, equity participation, communication management, etc, it will go a long way in positively bringing about the long desired development of VTE in Nigeria.
The concept of Parents-Teachers Association (PTA) in the Nigerian educational system is a recent development. Oluwole (2011) asserts that the take-over of schools by the government in the 1970s encouraged parents and teachers to come together to explore ways and means of complementing government efforts in the funding and administration of schools. Today, PTA is firmly finding its feet across the country in an attempt to provide the necessary enabling environment for schools to deliver quality education.
Vocational and Technical Education (VTE) as an aspect of general education which leads to the acquisition of practical and applied skills as well as basic scientific knowledge, administered under public school supervision and control, is competing for enablement by the PTA in a bid to attain desired development.
This article presents the meaning, origin, aims and objectives of PTA; meaning and objectives of VTE; the role of the PTA in managing institutions offering VTE, problems faced by PTAs and examines re-positioning PTAs for VTE development, and draws conclusions.
Aims and Objectives of PTA in Nigeria
The National Parents-Teachers Association of Nigeria (1992) in Iyo and Torikpa, (2002) lists the following as aims and objectives of PTA in Nigeria:
- To provide the platform for parents, guardians, sponsors and teachers of students of educational institutions to meet and exchange views, deeply analyse issues, make recommendations and pursue implementation of decisions on matters affecting education in Nigeria with appropriate agencies.
- To cooperate with and support morally and financially, the federal, state and local government, ministries, boards, commissions and other appropriate organisations, institutions and establishments of education to achieve high standard of academic performance, discipline, loyalty, service and integrity in our schools.
- To foster mutual understanding, harmonious relationship and cooperation among parents, guardians and teachers in the fulfilment of their common aim- the welfare of the school and of the students therein.
- To make for a healthy and systematic understanding of educational policies and programmes of government and thus influence same to create a suitable climate for the reception of same.
- To infuse into the children a sense of security through regular discussion of the issues that may affect their academic performance and general welfare.
- To ensure a stable, uniform and right standard of discipline both at home and at school.
- To assist materially and otherwise in providing the school with such additional requirements that will enable it to carry out its educational functions adequately.
- To encourage regular visits to schools by parents and guardians to see their children at work and play, with a view to familiarising themselves with the aims and objectives of such schools.
- To assist in the proper and all-round development of the children so that they may grow up to become useful and law-abiding members of the society.
- In the case of tertiary institutions, PTAs shall accomplish the above aims and objectives through consultative council of friends of universities, polytechnics, colleges of education, technical colleges and other such tertiary institutions in close collaboration with the parents, guardians, sponsors, traditional rulers, religious leaders, community leaders, chambers of commerce and industries and such other bodies relevant to the immediate communities of the respective tertiary institutions concerned.
In a nutshell therefore, the aims and objectives of PTAs may be summed up as: providing a platform for parents and teachers to cooperatively understand and proffer solutions to problems affecting the learners, mobilising the much needed finances for running of their schools, ensuring and enhancing a uniform standard of discipline to their children, assisting the schools materially, and above all, creating and enhancing the right kind of enabling socio-economic environment for the attainment of academic standard of their various schools. These and other goals can enhance the quality of VTE if PTAs are properly positioned in the course of their operations.
Meaning of Vocational and Technical Education
In Robert’s study (as cited in Wankar, 2005) Vocational education is the type of education or training designed for preparing the individual learner to earn a living or increase his earnings in an occupation where technical information and an understanding of the laws of science and technology are applicable to modern design, production, and distribution of services. Similarly, in Agbebi’s study (as cited in Wankar 2005), technical education is that aspect of education which utilises scientific knowledge in the acquisition of practical and applied skills in solving technical problems.
Vocational and technical education is thus that part of general education which leads to the development of human abilities in terms of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values so that the individual may serve happily and efficiently in carrying on the activities in the vocational pursuit of the total education programme. This form of education is given in schools or classes under public supervision and control within the framework of the 6-3-3-4 system of education as a component of distributive education, business education, vocational agriculture, office education, home economics, health occupation, trade and industry and vocational guidance. According to the National Policy on Education (1981) there are five types of technical education institutions outside of the universities. These are pre-vocational, vocational schools, technical colleges, the polytechnics and colleges of technical teacher education.
- Pre-vocational Education: Pre-vocational training starts at the primary school level where children are introduced to vocational experiences in handicrafts, rural science, and agriculture. At the junior secondary school level, we have introductory technology and business studies which are for the basis for future training in the skills of technology and vocation.
- Vocational education: this takes place at the senior secondary school level, technical colleges and vocational centers, for lower category of the technical workforce.
- Technical education: These are tertiary technical institutions that train the middle level manpower and include polytechnics, colleges of technical teacher education etc.
Aims of VTE
The National Policy on Education (1981) Section 6, spells out the aims of VTE as follows:
- Providing trained manpower in applied science, technology and commerce, particularly at sub-professional grades;
- Providing the technical knowledge and vocational skills necessary for agricultural, industrial, commercial and economic development;
- Providing people who can apply scientific knowledge to the improvement and solution of environmental problems for use and convenience of man;
- Giving an introduction to professional studies in engineering and other technology;
- Giving training and imparting the necessary skills leading to the production of craftsmen, technicians, and other skilled personnel who will be enterprising and self – reliant; and
- Enabling our young men and women to have an intelligent understanding of the increasing complexity of technology;
From the foregoing, it may be seen that the goal of VTE is to train and re-train competent young men and women who will apply the knowledge and skills acquired in solving scientific and technological problems confronting humanity for better living in our dynamic society. This type of training and re-training is carried out in a complex school system which calls for the appropriate enabling environment which can be created and sustained by proper positioning of PTAs in the various schools.
PTA and Management of Institutions offering VTE
At present, it is difficult for any institution offering vocational and technical education to survive without the full backing of PTA. The management of these schools today has increasingly become complex as seen in the areas of increasing costs of education, explosive students’ population, technological influence, school-community conflict, and staff and students’ indiscipline.
Schools cannot do the job of managing alone and parents and guardians cannot delegate their responsibility for guiding their children and wards completely to schools. PTA therefore provides a link between the school and the home. The NPE (1981) emphasizes that government takeover of schools is without prejudice to community involvement and participation in the running of schools. It is therefore essential that teachers and parents liaise in order to consider and agree on issues which will ensure good quality education for the learners. This culminates in PTAs:
Being committed to ensuring that conducive learning environment prevails; Ensuring that the community does not unduly interfere with the day to day administration of schools and also seeing to it that laws which will be hostile to the schools fail, and that the community does not encroach or trespass on schools’ premises.
Acting as a resource centre; can serve as a ‘bank’ where ideas and materials can be drawn for the good of schools as well as assisting to provide resource persons to schools; at times, such resource persons could be members of the PTA.
Providing information and contributing artefacts to the school museum; members who are carpenters for instance, may take upon themselves to effect necessary repairs of damaged desks, benches or any other school furniture and teach students how to make such repairs or make shelves for library books; plumbers among PTA membership may re-activate dry water-taps or arrange for dislodgement of septic tanks; students always have the opportunity of learning how it is done in the process of repairs; philanthropists among members provide books and other learning materials for the library and the school laboratories.
Raising funds for the school; funding is the live-wire of any school system; the bulk of the association’s efforts is generally in the area of collection of levies for the sustenance of the school and for provision of basic needs of the school such as fencing the school compound, controlling erosion in the school, renovating dilapidated buildings, provision of, or refurbishing of school vehicles, building halls, hostels, classroom blocks, libraries, workshops, laboratories, etc; these are capital intensive projects and often require assistance from outside bodies.
Encouraging higher enrolment in schools; modern technology has adversely affected the value system of most Nigerians, including youths; this new generation of students are infatuated with truancy, secret and dangerous love making, cultism and weed smoking; thus Obi (2003), asserts that this leads to high dropout rates from schools; PTAs have played significant roles in ensuring that students who dropped out of schools returned.
And helping to fight indiscipline among students and staff; today adults and youths think in terms of sweet life rather than hard work and endurance; such cherished virtues as hard work, honesty, sincerity have become de-emphasised; discipline is the most important element in the ethos of schools which PTAs seek to enforce.
Problems Faced by PTAs
From the practical point of view, it appears that the bulk of the efforts of PTAs are generally in the areas of collection of levies for the sustenance of the schools for the provision of some basic needs of the schools (Ezeocha, 1985).
Gorton and Schneider (1991) also agree that for many years, the PTA was considered to be little more than a coffee-and-cookies group that met several times a year to hear speeches and to discuss buying additional equipment for the school. It is chiefly useful to the administration for raising funds for special projects and persuading parents who are interested to attend meetings. To this extent, Ezeocha (1985) reports that PTA has become identified with funds in some states today that the mention of PTA has come to be synonymous with school levy.
There is a gap between what is said and what is real. There is a gap between the rhetoric of emphasising community involvement and reality of limited opportunities for parents to become meaningfully involved in the school affairs. To the extent that cross-country evidence is available, it suggests that in both developed and developing countries, the direct involvement of parents in school affairs is limited. Even when parents nominally participate in school management, they may have limited say. In some contexts, participation is confined to raising money, with limited influence over how it is used. Parents associations have nominal control over the use of financial resources, much of which they have contributed, because they lack the capacity to exercise control.
Another problem is that of membership. Members of PTAs spring mostly from people with relatively high education, wealth or social status, partly because of the social networks they can bring to benefit the schools. The poor, marginalised and disadvantaged may not be adequately represented, and, actively engaged. They therefore have no opportunity to articulate their concerns and to influence decisions. It is of recent that the PTA is trying to broaden its membership base.
Attitudes of parents and administrators to PTA affairs also constitute a problem. There is noticeable lack of interest on the part of parents and administrators in becoming deeply involved with PTA affairs in schools. Lack of interest by parents could easily discourage the administrator who may even give up if he does not hold a strong commitment. Where the administrator lacks a strong conviction about the importance of parents’ involvement, he is likely to feel that its objectives are not necessary, possible or worthwhile pursuing.
Poor attendance to PTA meetings by parents is attributed to full time job engagements. Various activities compete with the school for their available time, while there is usually indifference about PTA matters unless a controversial issue arises.
Other perceived problems facing the effective performance of PTAs as outlined by Oluwole (2011) are:
- Non completion of projects already initiated;
- Unsuccessful efforts to intervene in the non-payment of salaries in some instances;
- Illiteracy and lack of sense of direction by a vast number of parents;
- Domination/manipulation of PTA affairs by few outstanding members/officials; and
- Corruption by officials in handling PTA funds.
Re-positioning PTAs for VTE Development
In view of the potential of PTAs in the effective management of VTE institutions and the kind of problems highlighted as militating against the organisations, the following measures, if put in place, will re-position PTAs in enhancing the development of vocational and technical education in Nigeria:
- Critical evaluation of involvement of the PTA in school administration: Involvement has been presented so positively in the educational literature that it has frequently seemed to be the main objective of school-community relations rather than a means of improving VTE. There is need to clearly define what powers parents have over school policies and practices, how these powers should be exercised, and what should be the parents’ role in the education of their own children. When these issues are realistically considered, parents will become more knowledgeable about school affairs such as the learning curriculum, problems faced by the school, and their role in supporting the school to improve VTE programmes.
- High degree of commitment by the school administrator to increased community involvement: If administrators believe strongly enough in the value of PTA and feel it is essential (not just desirable), in most cases they should find time and develop the capacities to increase meaningful PTA involvement. On the other hand, if they lack a strong conviction about its importance, they are likely to feel that its objectives are not necessary, possible or worthwhile pursuing. The administrator should know that his attitude towards PTAs is very important.
- Use of incentives and rewards: Incentives and reward should be offered to school administrators who are favourably disposed towards community involvement in the management of their schools. It seems clear that unless school boards or local authorities have an explicit policy emphasising the importance of positive commitment in this regard and provide appropriate incentives and rewards to promote good school – community relations (as well as impose sanctions for those administrators who drag their feet), not much will come out of efforts of PTAs.
- Encouraging attendance to PTA meetings: Administrators should persistently diagnose the cause(s) of lack of interest in the affairs of PTAs in their schools among members and take steps to ameliorate the problem. A thorough diagnosis may reveal that parental apathy is only a symptom, rather than the problem itself. Furthermore, there should be a more creative scheduling of meetings and moving the venues of meetings from the school premises to a convenient alternative within the community.
- Equity participation in school affairs: If the participation of PTA membership in the school affairs is to enhance equity, the poor, marginalised and disadvantaged members need to be not just adequately represented but actively engaged. They have to be able to articulate their concerns and to influence decisions.
- Active participation by PTA in school decisions: While the PTA recognises the legal right of the school board to make policy decisions, members of PTAs are expected to actively participate in the process leading to such decisions. In so doing, each PTA should appoint from its members an executive committee in the day to day running of schools. The new motto of PTA outfits should be “PTA – Parents Taking Action”.
- Involving parents as resource persons: The schools should create a conducive relationship with parents by using them as resource or volunteer persons. Parents who are PTA members possess skills, knowledge, or ideas which might be made available to the school in a wide variety of ways such as participating in tutorials, working in the library, preparing instructional materials, operating audio-visual equipment, etc.
- Free flow of communication between schools and parents: Communication from school to parents should not be limited to those special instances when a school needs the parents’ support, such as in fund-raising or when a major crisis or problem occurs. Such communication should seek to put parents in a better place to provide learning activities at home and to fairly and effectively evaluate the educational programmes of the schools.
In the light of the strategies outlined above, it is safe to conclude that the keys to successful PTAs in the development of VTE are the administrator’s vision and commitment. The PTA in a school is just as good as the administrator wants it to be. He should therefore, constantly seek to enlarge and sustain membership involvement and participation in the PTA of his school. This will go a long way in attaining the goals and objectives of vocational and technical education as enshrined in our overall educational system.
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