Memo to my Child’s School Board

Opening Charge:

‘I also think we need to begin to see our teachers as our number one customers and not the parents. When we see the teachers as our number one customers, we treat them as kings. The result is that they will also in turn treat the pupils as kings. The truth is that there is no parents, who will not be delighted to take their children to a school where they (children) are treated as kings.’

Dear school board, I am prompted by a sense of duty, first as a parent and second as a Social Empowerment Advocate, who sees matters that relate with children as his primary area of assignment.

I feel that this is the most appropriate time for me to write you, considering the fact that the year is winding speedily to an end and I am aware that you have many plans for next year. I want to see how we can reflect the best interest of the child more in our programs and policies for the school.

As I told the principal the first day I visited the school, the major reason I registered my child in your school is the fact that you run a functioning board of directors. I am also aware that your boards are made up of renowned and distinguished professional. These men and women, who I am told have genuine passion for children and their proper education do not just come into the board meeting to warm the bench, but to make decisions that will advance the total well-being of the pupils.

I am also aware that your school is policy-driven. I am told you have policies of every area of life of the institution of learning and the pupils, including the hiring of teachers. For example, the principal, who is very amiable and informed, told me that you even have a policy on interpersonal relationships among students. I am also told that as the board is functioning, so are the policies.

Two things stood out in my maiden and subsequent conversations with the principal. The first is that you have a huge budget on organising trainings from time to time on the school policies for pupils, teachers and non-academic workforce. The second is that your policies are research and development driven; therefore one of the highest budgets in the schools is on research and development.  When I asked the principal what he believed to be his primary responsibility to the school. He confidently told me that it was to teach the teachers and the pupils the vision of the school and keep inspiration alive.

I am glad about the foregoing because it is clear to me that only few schools are run properly like yours. It is therefore clear in my mind that many schools, which are not run by a properly constituted board do not understand that the dividends of a school system are the lives changed and must give to the society finished products and not factory rejects. Since the board represents the mind of the school, a school without a properly constituted and active board cannot boast of proper policies, which protect the interests of all and every area of the life of the child.

As far as I am concerned, I believe that any school that is not run this way does not have a future. I firmly believe that since a man or institution cannot give what it does not have, a school without a future cannot give its pupil a future.

Recently speaking to a group of school owners, I kicked against the fact that many of their schools are not being run by a properly constituted board.  I defined a board of an organisation as its mind. I submitted that the peace of a company or organisation is dependent on the soundness of its board, both in terms of integrity, intelligence, skill and experience. Therefore the area of core business of a company should determine the membership of the board.

I further reminded them that It is a non-negotiable requirement of the Corporate Affairs Corporation that for you to register a professional organisation either as company or social work, you must have at least an  expert in the area of your endeavour on your board of directors or board of trustees. I concluded that it is a known fact that beyond meeting the requirement of the Corporate Affairs Commission, many schools do not take time to select the board members of their schools according to the needs of the child for excellent, enduring education and the best interest of the child. It is common practice today for schools to be run by one-man board or in some cases by a board of two. Many are schools that are run by a passive board.

Dear board, I think we will need a symposium discussion to tackle the issue of corporate governance in most of the schools in this country today. I think I should quickly address one more very critical issue before I round up this memo.

I picked a loophole in your policy on hiring and firing of teachers. I noticed that you pay a lot of attention on the professional qualifications of the prospective teachers. I think this is very good. The issue I have is that not much is done to investigate the professional history of the teachers.

I think this is very important that we are not only concerned about the head of the teachers. We must also be concerned about their heart. By their heart I mean their character, passion and sense of mission. Let me spend a little time to remind you about the prime place a teacher occupies in the life of children. I read in The Economist Magazine of January 4, 2011 as follows:  ‘budget, curriculum, class size– none has a greater effect on a student than his or her teacher.”

I verily believe The Economist because from my own personal research, I have come to the irresistible conclusion that the teacher is the real curriculum of the school. A child may not remember many things that he or she is taught in school, but I am sure he or she will never forget the impact of the teacher on him or her either positive or negative.

I must say that there is no gainsaying the fact that a school curriculum is critical to the advancement of the child, but more critical is the teacher, who teaches the curriculum. The primary mandate of a teacher is not to teach a curriculum but to demonstrate it with his or her lifestyle.  Someone said, ‘One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings.  The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.’ As Stanford University economist, Paul Romer has long argued, great advances have always come from ideas; ideas do not fall from the sky; they come from people. People write the software, design the products and start the new businesses. Every new thing that gives pleasure or productivity or convenience is the result of human ingenuity.”

In view of the foregoing, I want to suggest that beyond professional qualifications, the policy on hiring and firing of teachers should be reviewed as we approach a new term. The major areas of review should be the commitment of human and financial resources to the processes of validating the character of the teachers we hire. I think the acid test should be the compatibility of the personal values of the prospective teachers with that of the school.

I also think we need to begin to see our teachers as our number one customers and not the parents. When we see the teachers as our number one customers, we treat them as kings. The result is that they will also in turn treat the pupils as kings. The truth is that there is no parents, who will not be delighted to take their children to a school where they (children) are treated as kings.

Dear board, I must stop here. I am available for further discussions on this. Thank you.

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