Child rearing is indeed a community affair involving different actors. Once the home environment has set the tone and laid the necessary foundation, the next principal actor in the growth and development of the child is the school.
Almost all parents look forward to that day when the school would step in to contribute its fair share in the raising of their little precious ones. All parents desire the best schools on offer and given a choice no parent would pick a school that would not help unleash their children’s potential and prepare them sufficiently to navigate with relative ease the world beyond school. Resources permitting, no parent worth his/her salt would send children to a school that has a reputation for presiding over the destruction of the future of children under its care.
But sadly, an overwhelming number of children from low income and poverty stricken backgrounds are forced by economic imperatives to settle for that very public school in the proximity of their homes. For many children living in remote areas, this could be the only school they have ever known. Choice does not exist for parents whose children find themselves in this predicament. Even when not content with the school’s reputation and educational outcomes, the learners are simply stuck here. It is destiny.
Unlike students from poverty stricken backgrounds, children from affluent and high income backgrounds are spoilt for choice. They can afford to scan the school environment in the private sector and settle for reputable and prestigious schools. Schools in the private sector endeavour as a matter of survival to offer the best they can because they don’t want to risk losing their competitive edge. However, the same cannot be said about public schools because they do not face the risk of losing learners even when they don’t offer their best selves. It is small wonder that without any pressure to bear, some public schools have maintained over a sustained period of time the notorious distinction of failing students and doing almost next to nothing about raising academic achievement levels.
Special attention needs to be paid to public schools. This is for the simple reason that in almost every corner of the country there is a public school. More importantly, public schools have a wide coverage of poverty stricken areas and this places public schools at the heart of the national agenda of rolling back the frontiers of poverty and improving livelihoods.
It is therefore incumbent upon public schools to roll up their sleeves and perform as expected. Public schools must begin to be conscious of the fact that mission failure is not an option. Schools must begin to realise that the culture of failing to push a large proportion of students into competency and proficiency is unacceptable. Schools which exist in low income and poverty stricken locations should know that they are literally condemning many young people to a vicious cycle of poverty and undignified existence.
This cannot be correct and addressing the current climate of underachievement requires bold and novel measures. The community in which schools exist must increase its engagement with schools. The community must play its role in maintenance of law and order. When seeing students in school uniform roaming the streets during school hours, the community should suspect that something is amiss and efforts should be made to address the challenge. Students who have a propensity for leaving the school premises at every opportunity are usually out on mischief making errands. Some communities are proactive in instilling discipline by way of loading the wandering students into their vehicles and ensure their safe return to schools.
This is commendable. The community should exercise vigilance to ensure that no learner is found in wrong places like beer drinking halls. Above all, the community should demand accountability from school leaders and a village or town forum should be created where school leaders can account and be held accountable for what is happening and not happening in their schools. Resource mobilisation should not be the preserve of schools but should be treated as a community affair. However, the community can do so much but the bulk of the work rests with schools. Internal school factors far outweigh external factors in the quest for transformation. Transformation is possible and it should begin within the boundaries of the school itself. For instance, it takes the charisma of a school leader to moblise community support for a worthy school cause. This explains why some schools enjoy community support while others do not. The man or woman at the helm should make things happen.
A lot of schools have become their worst enemies due to a sustained culture of despondency and negativity. An institution of learning is supposed to behave both in words and deeds as a centre for positive change. Instilling positive tendencies must be one of the primary responsibilities of school managers. Both teachers and students require good motivation and this is what school principals must render with no lack of effort.
In their daily struggles, teachers and learners confront an array of issues and challenges, which might distract their attention from teaching and learning. Leaders should know their staff and students well so that targeted interventions can be made. Data must be used for purposes of drafting appropriate interventions.
For instance, Form One new entrants who got a place in secondary schools through the automatic progression dispensation need special care. They need not be discriminated against on account of their past weak academic record. These learners could be at a disadvantage due to lack of mastery of basic literacy. They need to hear that they have entered a land of possibilities and that their situation can change for the better. Any negative attitude towards them could ruin their chances of redemption. To close the achievement gap, some schools have employed a breakthrough to literacy programme.