To control visits of parents and reduce unsupervised external influences, the school management proposed a security identity card. The card will be kept with the security at the gate and only parents and guardians whose pictures are on the card will be given permission to proceed further. There will be three photo’s on every student’s card.
It seems like a good plan and the parents agreed to it. I chuckled because I have seen many similar ventures in Nigeria fail, just a day before the meeting I saw a similar ID for my other sibling’s day school lying somewhere in the house and I was told that the ID system has been cancelled. I remember when it was enforced during the first wave of kidnapping in Nigeria, people were scared then. But now we hear of kidnappings as much as road accidents and may be the fear has subsided or parents can’t be bothered. The popular failed ID systems are National ID project and Driver’s license which are to be renewed (at huge sums of course). Other probable failures awaiting their turn are Voters Registration and sim card registration.
I doubt the school is corrupt nor will it benefit financially from contracting IDs of cardboard paper IDs with three photos. There was no recent kidnap of boarding school students. It can be used to control trafficking contraband but it is the parents that bring half the contraband anyway. Its purpose may not be for security but I think it has to do with parents washing their hands of the contraband cartel by publicly voting for a way to discontinue it. Doesn’t this resemble well known corrupt politicians denouncing corruption in the media?
Bringing food to students on that day was specifically prohibited and reiterated many times in the meeting but the feast after the meeting was almost as if to symbolize the last. I am being optimistic here. The food was brought by the same parents that agreed not to do so during the PTA.
For the second time, the issue of stealing was brought up. The principal warned that most of the “stealing” cases were actually carelessness on the part of the students. And that the students would complain that it had been stolen to avoid getting scolded at home. Parents jumped at this explanation and embraced it so hard that it felt loved. Having been in boarding school myself I acknowledge that “many” cases of stealing could be due to carelessness but not all. Secondly, carelessness only explains lack of secured keeping but it doesn’t explain why another student (the thief) goes ahead to steal.
When Aisha leaves her shirt lying around the common room; that is carelessness. But when Amina takes it away without returning it; that is stealing.
Also, in my days, there were genuine thieveries. Students (thieves) that unlock a locker (or bag), take what they want and leave unnoticed. Some were caught and some even made it as a habit. Santa Clause and Madame Kwas-Kwas are not real but stealing student are.
The parents were so eager to accept anything does not implicate their kids as potential thieves. I can understand why: first is that the parents don’t have to worry that their child (who does not steal at home) may be a thief; secondly if a parent agree there are thieves then the other parent sitting with you may be the parent of a thief. This social awkwardness was deflected by the explanation that the students are just careless. Now parents look at each other smiling as if telling themselves “How clumsy our kids are!”. Everyone is happy. Stealing is not acknowledged. The issue was explained away.
A parent made a case that there is a huge sum of money in the school’s bank account but it has been keep dormant for over two years. Her case was so convincing that I was surprised to find out that she was not a banker but a medical doctor. A discussion followed on which banks had the best interest rates, which had the least savings-cost and which were profitable yet safe. It was surprising that the supporters of the different banks seemed like mere customers but not staffs of the banks they advocate. If there were bankers among them, they knew how to act like they weren’t. This took some time going on…
Until another parent came up with one of the best ideas that day. She asked “why didn’t we use this money in two years when there are things that need to be done?”. This should have been the logical question to ask when we found out that the money has been virtually untouched for two years. At this point the idea hit everyone like “Ooooo so we can use this money”.
To be fair to the parents, many of them there have successful careers and are bosses in their organizations. The problem was not in identifying the next logical step. I think it was in getting consumed by the discussion on how to maximize the profit from the school account. Lack of focus? its possible. And how lack-of-focus festers Nigeria’s political environment. When Angolan (I think) president made a statement that his country will not repeat Nigeria’s mistake, there was uproar and rapid responses from politicians for the “insult”. But did any of them asked what the Nigerian mistake really was?
As we approached the closing remarks, the chair discovered that there was one program that was not included in the program list. Subcommittees on the executives had not been inaugurated. This called for another string on formalities only second to first few seconds of a Parliamentary sitting.
Second Amendment of Constitution
The subcommittees were welfare, academics and others (can’t remember). The PTA constitution was amended for the second time that day. The ratio of parents to teachers to executives which formed a subcommittee was revised and all agreed. It took at least forty minutes to inaugurate them. I wondered why use such big words like “inaugurate” and why make it more formal. It dawned on me that it works and (perhaps) being that we like ceremonies, this was the most active PTA I have participated (I had been to one at same school but it was a different executive council). I don’t mind the formalities, especially the Victorian Aye and Nay.
A Doctor’s Oath
A sick student was treated by the school’s sickbay before transferred home or to a hospital. The parent requested for information about the medication given to the child and it turned out the sickbay doesn’t document drug administration. That was appalling to me, but only for a second because I don’t remember having my situation documented even when I went to sickbay. I couldn’t have been too occupied by the pain because I would fake it just to get some rest or getaway from a boring class.
The PTA decided that they would do a reshuffling of the sickbay staff, check for their credentials and possibly replace them with better qualified practitioners. There was even the talk of getting a full time General Practitioner for the school with all the money that it has been piling. Medical documentation was a powerful point. If you have kids or siblings in boarding schools, go and push for them to document medical treatments if they don’t. A parent who is a doctor took responsibility of seeing this process of rectifying the sickbay; the declaration of responsibility sounded like an oath. Powerful.
In the End
The meeting started with about sixty participants and there were about two hundred in the end. This lateness actually made the PTA more interesting because some parents that came late usually get up and raise an issue passionately only to be boooooooed by the sitting parents. Their expressions were always priceless because at first it seems to them the booers disagree with them. Then they find out that that booing was for coming late since the issue they are raising had been discussed, and apparently they were not there. The meeting started after 12:00pm and finished after 3:00pm. Pheewwww!