Child’s Rights and Discipline: The UNCOMMON Theory (26)

Opening Charge

A lot times when we are dealing with children, we believe that children cannot be smarter than us. They must not also be seen to be smarter than us. So when we approach the matters, which have to do with children, we erected stoutly our sceptre of ego and insist on our assertions and opinion of situations, without any proof. Our only proof and justification is that we are older and should be wiser. After all, a child knows nothing…’

Hello fellow custodians, last week was an unusual week when things did not go as planned. I suffered in the hands of nature, despite my many boast in the past that I know how to take control. Last week was one of such weeks when I had to feed on my words and I was full. I wasn’t here twice. Can you imagine that? Friends, I am back. I pray I come as regularly as I promise. Thank you for your understanding and bearing with the feelings of my human infirmities. Please join me today as I share with you the 21st core habit of a purposeful, disciplined and effective disciplinarian: Believe the child when there are no contrary facts:

This is a very touchy topic in this part of the world, where majority of us believe that childhood is synonymous with pranks, deception and mischief. Custodians just believe that what they believe about a situation, when it involves or concerns a child must be right even when they do not have any facts or evidence to validate same. It is sad that custodians insist on their assertions without any iota of proof. It is sadder that custodians would not listen to the child’s side of the story or believe same.

A lot times when we are dealing with children, we believe that children cannot be smarter than us. They must not also be seen to be smarter than us. So when we approach the matters, which have to do with children, we erected stoutly our sceptre of ego and insist on our assertions and opinion of situations, without any proof. Our only proof and justification is that we are older and should be wiser. After all, a child knows nothing.

The unwritten rule seems to be that once a matter involves a child, custodians must act on their suspicion instead of an establish truth. Once the custodian is clueless, he/she does not investigate, he/she takes a decision to disbelieve the child and goes ahead to do so.  I must say that there is no faster way to destroy a child than to insist on or judge a child by a fact we cannot prove to ourselves or the child. What if the child is not presenting the facts? Yes, the principle here is not whether the child is saying the truth or not. The principle is that we have no proof that the child is not saying the truth. Once we don’t have contrary facts, we must believe the child. It is risky to hold the child responsible when we have no facts. What if the child is saying the truth, he/she would have been unjustly treated and the impact is indelible. What we are saying is that truth has no meaning and innocence is not cherished enough to require investigation. We are also saying that innocence is not strong enough a status to guarantee an escape from chastisement.

What if the child is not saying the truth? It is a matter for his conscience to handle. In fact such cases are a training process for the child’s conscience. We must understand that the child’s conscience will always be with him/her wherever he/she goes but the custodians will not always be. The conscience and the custodians play different roles. The tragedy of meting out disciplinary measures without proof is that it destroys the child’s conscience. My wife once told me a story, which is very instructive in this area. As a child my wife had done something wrong and she was reported to her father. The father called her and asked if she did what she had been reported to have done? Though she did it but she decided to lie. The father probed for a while and she insisted she was saying the truth. In the absence of contrary facts, the father said to her, ‘I believe you. I believe you would not lie to daddy. Please go in peace.’ She left the presence of her father broken. Her conscience was touched. Though, she did not go back to the father to confess, she made up her mind never to lie to her father or do anything to hurt a believer, her father. One single event led to transformation of behaviour.

What happens if you find a contrary fact after, you have believed the child? I think it should be a closed case, depending on the enormity of the issue at hand. Whichever way, I believe, we should find another way to communicate the lessons to the child, without necessarily referring to the matter that has already been concluded.

Another trick, which custodians play, is to convince the child to say the truth on the promise that the facts will not be used against them. When the child falls for the bait, the custodians descend on them. I was a victim of that when growing up. My father once told us that we should tell the truth and that our saying the truth would make him tamper justice with mercy. I only fell for that once or twice. It amounts to breach of trust to play on the intelligence of a child. When we succeed in playing on the child’s intelligence, we have play on many other things we may not even be aware of.  As custodians, we cannot stand children playing on our intelligence; we must also make it a point of duty not to play on children’s intelligence. It is even safer for children to play on our intelligence than for us to play on their intelligence.

My charge today is that we must believe the child once we do not have contrary facts, evidence or proof. Do have an INSPIRED day.

Think the child…Think Today…Think Tomorrow…

POINT 2 PONDER:

‘What if the child is not saying the truth? It is a matter for his conscience to handle. In fact such cases are a training process for the child’s conscience.

NOTE THESE:

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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.

Child’s Rights and Discipline: The UNCOMMON Theory (25)

Opening Charge

‘In explaining to the child, we must never neglect the perspective of the child. If we must involve the perspective of the child, we must understand and use the language of the child. It is important that we know that language is a major tool of socialisation.’

Hello fellow custodians, please join me as I share with you the 20th core habit of a purposeful, disciplined and effective disciplinarian: Give reasons for your position:

I have discussed the need to hear out the child. I have also discussed that we cannot be a judge in our own cause when it comes to child discipline and development. The truth of the matter is that it is not enough to hear out the child. We are not to hear the child to fulfill all righteousness. We are to hear the child for the righteousness of establishing the real truth of discipline, which is not only to do all in the best interest of the interest of the child but to establish the norms of development for the child.

It is therefore important what we do with what we hear from the child. How do we prove that we are committed to working with what we hear from the child? One simple way to prove that we really hear the child and what he/she says matter is for us to take it on board in reaching a decision.

Besides, it is not enough to take it on board in reaching the decision; we must express that much to the child. How do express that to the child? We express it by referring to what the child say while we hear him or her out. When we have the foregoing at the back of our mind, we know that we cannot take a decision concerning the child on the issue of child discipline and development without taking time to explain to the child.

In explaining to the child, we must never neglect the perspective of the child. If we must involve the perspective of the child, we must understand and use the language of the child. It is important that we know that language is a major tool of socialisation.

Therefore whether we decide to exonerate the child or we want to subject the child to disciplinary measures, we must explain the basis for our decisions to the children under our custody. The foregoing exercise requires patience, humility and a sense of mission. Patience will help us to take our time, without which explanation will never take root. Humility will tame the custodian’s ego and sense of mission will help us to keep to the purpose of discipline.

I think I have to rest my case here and continue this conversation tomorrow. Do have an INSPIRED day.

Think the child…Think Today…Think Tomorrow…

POINT 2 PONDER:

‘One simple way to prove that we really hear the child and what he/she says matter is for us to take it on board in reaching a decision.

NOTE THESE:

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THE LEKKI 3, SCHOOL BUS OPERATION AND CHILD’S RIGHT TO LIFE

Introduction:

I wrote this piece in 2011 in response to the killing of 3 children in a school bus accident. It was published in The Punch Newspaper. I feel the need to reproduce it today in view of another recent school bus accident, which claimed pupils lives. The issues I raised in the piece are still very valid if best practice must be employed in respect of School Run in Nigeria in the best interest of the child. I think the school buses accidents are avoidable. Kindly read, learn and comment. Thank you.

The Punch of April 13, 2010 commented, ‘the death of 28 pupils of Aricent Nursery and Primary School, Olupitan, Ore, Ondo State, the school proprietor and a teacher in an auto crash on Ore-Ondo road is sad indeed. They were returning from an excursion to the famous Idanre Hills. The paper further stated, ‘according to reports, the driver of the bus recklessly overtook other vehicles at a bend on top speed before crashing into an oncoming trailer at about 8.30pm. According to the reports, 42 pupils whose ages range from six to 13, the proprietor and a teacher were crammed into an 18-seater bus.’

I am sad to announce to you that nothing concrete was done by the stakeholders in the life of the children in the above cited case to immortalize the tragic incident and formulate people oriented policies that will make such history in Ondo State and beyond.

Barely one year after the unaddressed and ugly incident in Ondo, the Punch of Thursday, May 12, 2011, ‘three primary school pupils of Cornerstone School, Ajah died in a bus accident along Lagos-Epe Expressway, Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State. History repeated itself. We failed as a nation to heed the warning of George Bernard Shaw that ‘the lesson of history is that we don’t learn from history.’

I must say, it is not the character of the Nigerian State to learn from her history, particularly in matters that affect children. Children here are not seen, not to talk of being heard.

My concern today is the right of the Nigerian child to life. It is important to note that the right to life is the foundation of every other right the child has. In fact every other rights of the child is fulfilled in the protection of the right of the child to life. Thus when the child’s right to life is breached with impunity, as it is in Nigeria today, every right is breached. I make bold to say today that contrary to what many may think, the right of the child to life is the most breached in Nigeria.’

I have identified 15 areas of threats against the life of the Nigerian child. One of these is road accident. In one of my advocacy handbook, titled, ’20 nuggets an how to protect your child’s life,’ I stated as follows: ‘560 children killed by road accidents across the country under avoidable circumstances within one year (2003), according to Federal Road Safety Commission. (Business Times November 8-14, 2004).’

In view of the tragic cases of the Ondo 28 and Lekki 3, which happened in the course of transportation within the school system, it is important that we take a critical look at the present practices in respect of school run and see if it is conformity with best practices.  My twin goals are to:  1. Call on the Lagos State Ministry of Education to set up a commission of enquiry, with a simple term of reference to investigate the circumstance under which the incident that claimed the lives of the children, while being conveyed to school, establish if the school has employed best practice in its school run administration and finally and make recommendations thereof that will impact permanently and positively on the administration of the school run in Lagos State. 2. Share with my readers some of the local and international practices, which parents and other stakeholders in the life of the child must insist on, as a matter of supreme urgency for the safety of our children.

Under my first goal, I have some simple but salient questions that are ringing in my mind since I read about the story of the tragic death of the Lekki 3.  I share them as follows: 1. Does Cornerstone School, Ajah have a School Run Policy? 2. How do they recruit their drivers? 3. How do they ascertain the mental state and attitudinal disposition of their drivers? 4. What kind of safety trainings do they give to their drivers? 5. Is there an administrative staff on the bus to monitor and supervise the driver and ensure compliance with safety tips? 6. If question 6 is yes, does the administrative staff have the capacity and authority to supervise or monitor the driver indeed? 7. Report says the accident occurred as a result of brake failure, under what circumstances do a vehicle brake fail? 8. When last was the vehicle in question and its brake released for periodic servicing and how often does the school change the vehicles tyres? What kind of tyres does the school buy, fairly used or new? Above all, what is the mechanical history of the vehicle? 9. has the brakes given any sign of problem before then? 10. If question 9 is true, did the driver complain to anyone in authority and if he did, was any action taken? 11. What is the personal work history of the particular driver of the ill-fated vehicle, both in his career as a driver and with the Cornerstone School? Was his background investigated before he was employed? Does he drink? Has he been a cautious driver?  12. What were the facts that surround the actual day of the accident? Was the driver reckless? Was an administrative staff on the bus with him on the fateful day? If the last question is yes, were the driver and the administrative staff engaged in a discussion? Was the driver eating, arguing with other road users? Was the driver answering or making a call without using a hand-free earphone? Does the driver use a hand-free earphone if he has to make and receive calls? 13. Are the children educated on basic preventive and immediate-response safety tips while on the school bus?

These questions are too many and legitimate to be swept under the carpet. The world needs to know for the best interest of the child. The world needs to know, to enable us learn from our history and put these kind of occurrences behind us as country. The society must not develop the character of not learning from its past and the key to learning from the past is to investigate and evaluate it and discover what and how it went wrong and a new course for a new and positive beginning. This is how societies of the world have moved from primitiveness to civilization. I volunteer myself to work with the Lagos State Government in answering these questions.

Finally, I will like to share with us a document known as “Guidelines for School Bus Operation” released by the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) elaborated by the Technical Committee for School Bus Standards with reference to national and international regulations/guideline as well as comment from relevant stakeholders across the country. Under terminologies, the following are recognized:

•School Bus: A large motor vehicle that takes students to and from school or on school-related trips.

•School Bus Driver: A School Bus Driver is a person who drives School Bus professionally.

•Assistant School Bus Driver: A qualified and licensed driver who acts as assistant to a school Bus Driver and conducts the students/pupils in the school bus.

•School bus Operator: An entrepreneur who acquires an approved School Bus type and engages in the business of conveying students to and from school.

•School Bus Operators Permit: A document which certifies the technical and managerial competence of an entrepreneur to operate a school bus.

The guidelines identified the following types of buses that can be used for school bus operation: Type A1- a bus that accommodates 18persons including the driver & assistant; Type A2- a bus that has an extended capacity to accommodate the school bus driver and the school bus driver assistant; Type B1- a bus that accommodates 28 persons including the school bus driver and assistant; Type B2- a bus that has an extended capacity to accommodate 35persons including the school bus driver and the assistant; Type C- a bus that has a maximum seating capacity to accommodate 72 persons including the school bus driver and assistant  school bus driver.

Finally the document laid out the requirements for bus drivers and assistants as follows: general medical fitness test; alcohol/drug test; mandatory mental health and acuity test; no criminal record of indictment or jail terms.

The million dollars, questions are parents and school owners if we are aware of the existence of the documents outlined? If they are aware, do they abide by its provisions? Finally, is Standard Organization of Nigeria committed to the enforcement of the guideline? It has been found all over the world that where school bus operation is properly regulated, it is the safest mode of transportation in the school system.

Think the child…Think Today…Think Tomorrow…

 NOTE THESE:

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