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Guidance and counseling unit is the hub of every school system – Queens College PTA chairman

In tandem with our school administrators series engineered towards engaging the stakeholders in the education space especially the ones at the secondary school level. In this exclusive interview Edugist reporter, Folaranmi Ajayi speaks with the chairman Parents Teachers Association (PTA) at Queens College, Yaba on the impacts, influence and how the PTA can be the link between quality education monitoring and evaluation of academics, behaviour and moral standard.
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Apart from the fact that PTA helps to provide transport facilities for schools. PTA helps also in fundraising, providing welfare for the students. Indiscipline in schools can be attributed to a lack of cooperation between parents and the school authority. Schools with strong PTA are less liable to riot than schools without strong PTA. Here is a man who has changed the narrative in school administration as the chairman of Queens College Parent Teachers’ Association in terms of results, welfare and academic excellence acceleration, relationships, synergy with other stakeholders, human capacity development, welfare upgrade and in all challenging the status quo in the last three years, he is to pass on the baton in few weeks. Excerpts

Please tell us about yourself?

I am engineer Adewuyi Adedamola member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, fellow Institute of management Consultant and member of the National Society of Nigeria Engineers. I am the current parents teachers PTA chairman of Queens College, Yaba, Lagos.

How has the journey been serving as PTA chairman of such a legacy school?

It’s been an interesting and disruptive journey being an alumnus of a unity school. one of the things that drove me to contest for this post is that the things I enjoyed and some others, we noticed that there was a decline in the quality of education that we received then and we felt that the PTA is the only avenue where we can ressurect this decline and we see that education is highly under funded compared to other African countries.

You look at educational budget and you see that it is not adequate and that ASUU is always going on strike and we all are taking from the same purse including the unity schools. What we met on ground was a chaotic situation as PTA leaders and it takes someone who understands the unity school system and the federal ministry of education to be able to midwife between the school and the parent, ensure more collaboration between teachers and parents. What we have done is to mediate between the school and the parent, track academic records and performance. Improve infrastructure and prioritise welfare.

What are the things applicable within the unity school system?

The unity school system was formed to increase togetherness of all ethnic groups in Nigeria. It was a leveler and the aim is to foster relationship for nation-building. We have merit list and there is a state quota. However, one of the things that we observed is that some people claim state of origin that are not theirs. This is impacting on the unity goal. The unity goal is allowing indigent school in their state and also to mix with others. We advocate that the quota system is balanced.

What has been your major achievements and challenges?

When we came on board we where concerned about the tone of discipline,welfare,primarily academics. The reason any parent want to bring their children here is because of the academics and the things they saw in the old girls. And we have analysed the system and we saw that guidance and counseling unit is the hub of every school system and any school system without the guidance and counselling unit will keep having repetitive issues.

This unit is the watch dog between morals,behaviours and academics and they are meant to be the interphase between the school and the parent and what we met on the ground was not good enough. First thing, we got professionals to refurbish the building through the ministry and we equipped it .

The place is now world standard. We make that place comfortable and the old girls are also looking forward to doing more. Another need was transportation and like you know our students are winning laureate, sometime they go for an event and they are late and we saw this as been embarrassing to the Queens college brand.

Our robotics are doing quite well and in three straight years of my tenure they have been making us proud. Fund limitation is also a very deep issue and we are happy that the old girls took responsibility of taking care of nine of our girls, others were sponsored by the college efforts and contacts.

In actual sense corporate organisation are not doing much to support education. Letters have been sent out. I expect companies like Glo, MTN, Etisalat, Dangote, Elumelu Foundation and all the rest to support education. There is no key visible support of international competitions by corporate bodies. And I feel that there should be budget. The bus we provided have been instrumental and very useful.

Tone of Discipline

Students within this age are batting with issues and one of the things we have done is to bring in counselling psychologist from Unilag, Lasu, from other professionals walk of life to speak with our students especially those in SS2 and SS3 because they show this kind of undulation in their behaviour and at this stage they are unpredictable and unruly.

Our goal was achieved to have functional counselling unit in their space and do more of parental education. We understand that some parents need to be trained to become parents. We have been able to ensure that at every PTA meetings professionals speak to parents and our girls.

School Management on Discipline

The school management have been very strict in enforcing the code of discipline for girls that err or go beyond behavioural standard. There was a time in the news that a girl from the school came in with eye lashes and the school suspended the girl indefinitely before there was intervention. These are some of the examples that QC is setting for the world. We don’t accept uncultured behaviours. In the area of discipline, I must commend the principal.

From your experience as PTA chairman for many years, what are some of the most important lessons you have learnt?

Teachers are usually blamed for students’ poor performance. Where do parents come in?

Funny enough, this was our last PTA meeting topic our school based management chairman spoke on this topic, as you said we have also seen and student performance is not one-sided we know that the parents have a role to play.

We brought in professionals to speak to parents. For me, I will say everyone I mean parents should track their children performance, subject, curriculum, class performance.

As EXCO we do this to check mate even teachers through average performance, for instance we track class average performance as metrics for teachers’ performance. So we can know if the teachers are doing well. For the parents a child that is battling emotional issues won’t do well also we don’t allow parents to bring who they are to the school and we don’t allow parents talk down on teachers. So as not to affect the student performance. We don’t even allow parents engage teachers directly so there will be no altercation.

What’s your take on the quality of education in Nigeria in the last 40 years?

If we look at the late 70s, 80s, the intent of creating the unity school system, is to foster unity,reduce poverty and in the 80s we were exporting knowledge and most of the vice chancellors and some politicians today benefited from free education.

We had a goal for education then and we benefitted from the investment. I was mentioning the unity schools, are they sponsored all the things we have then where are they now?

We have declined as a nation and we started well and the focus has changed and if we must move forward we must prioritise education as it is a tool for national development.

The unity schools are subsided it is cheap and affordable and if education is free we can reduce the burden and make it affordable for all. Government need to improve budget for education.

If university system has TETFund and Nigeria government wants to change the system we can have such intervention for secondary school system. The PTA cannot do everything because that’s not sustainable.

The government is not recruiting non teaching staff in most unity schools and who is going to bear the burden. Some body must bear the burden. The fact is that the government is not sponsoring education like it used to be 40 years ago.

What drives your passion for education?

I am diverse person and I have found out that we are very rich nation. And I have found out the unity system is one of the best education models created by our fathers.

When I was looking for a school for my child,I took her to a private school but I don’t like the system she was timid they do everything for them over there and you know life is not a bird of roses.

When she got admission to a unity school I now discovered that the system had changed and what I enjoyed is no longer there and that alone drove my passion. What I met here as a fresh parent was a crisis environment, the PTA and old girls were fighting the school and I started making changes by pointing them to the things that can be done.

We bought 10,000 litres of tank by coming together and that changed the perspective and we started this average class performance. Education cannot strive in a chaotic environment and we changed the nature of the PTA that we met. We emphasised collaboration, communal pool and working together to make a change. I am happy to say that the old girls are also superb to the changes that we have today. They have done excellently well.

What’s the synergy between the old girls and the PTA?

The old girls are very collaborative and we are 200 per cent together. My first meeting was with the old girls. They are excellent people and they are always championing every innovative event and I must confess that anything the PTA cannot do is pushed to the old girls.

Science lab, Rebecca room, home economics lab, they have transformed everything. That’s what peace management and collaboration do when you take away ego and self. The principal is even at peace and more focused because academic activities is not interrupted and that’s the model we are setting for other unity schools.

What’s stand you out as PTA chairman?

May be the records, in over a decade BECE performance, the junior waec, we had 14 As and that’s commendable. In our senior WAEC, we had 98 per cent pass rate in Mathematics and English and academics was top on my priority when I came in. And then there were issues and now are happy that we have changed the narrative, infrastructure wise, we had also challenged all the stakeholders to do more. The school had undergone a surgery and there is a touch on almost every building. When you are doing well every one wants to follow.

Share some of your happiest moments going forward?

I am always happy, putting a smile on people’s faces, solving problems, helping people, building relationships and I must add we introduced technology and automated the system, we introduced spend cards, school able cards, it is a card that help to monitor and know how their children spend. Once a child buys or spends their parents are noticed immediately and we appreciated this innovation more during this cash crunch and that was a very happy moment for me. The card was a game changer and we have pushed the schoolable cards to other unity schools in Lagos.

What is the PTA doing for teachers?

Smiles. We have been working with them and in the past three years all our the teachers day event are my happiest moment. We give awards and they are our partners in progress. We take them seriously. We even employ contract staffs. There is a need for government to convert contract staff to full staff especially those who have served for over 12 years. We currently have over 60 teachers out of the 130 staffs. You can see we are biting off more than we can chew. We employ them and we pay them and that’s why government need to budget more on education because teachers are leaving the system.

Why should government employ this contract teaching staff or convert them to full staff?

This contract staff are the ones filling in the lacuna and we have a record of success because of them. Honestly, you will be surprised by their impacts, we lost a guy he had two masters, he was in our pay roll collecting 35k then, we were forced to upgrade him to 50k when we came on board we lost the guy now. He travelled out.

The government is not employing teachers and when they retire no one is filling in the gap. The government should always check their staff records and employ teachers and in the last three years I have not seen any form of recruitment. And if you have not, who will fill in the gap when teachers leave,retire or even die. It is the PTA that is filling the gap and it is not sustainable. The government should improve the quality of education and prioritise education in unity schools and Nigeria generally.

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