BY COMR. BLESSING OMARAYARUE EGBAGBARA (JP)
The issues of the school community relations and the attendant challenges of school at all levels will always remain relevant and existing, particularly as it has come to be accepted that an organic relationship serves as a catalyst to positively change to both schools and the communities they served. However, when we project into the future, to enquire about the kind of relationship, we either foresee or expect, we bear in mind that such a failure will come with factors which will of necessity demand changes in the pattern of familiar adage that when the drummers change their rhythm, dancing steps must change with them. The important question then is, do we expect any transformation of the society and whether this will be radical, moderate and infinitesimal? For the New patterns of relationship will be dependent on the degree of transformation of societies, that schools have interacted with.
Before going in dept into the subject of Discussion, I want to specially appreciate Hon. Barr. Peter Mrakpor (SAN) FICM, Immediate Past Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General Delta State, Amb. Comrade Chief Ohwoekevwo David JP, Comr. Chief Mrs. Odjoji II, who I served as Branch Chairman and Treasurer of the Great Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Ughelli North Branch, where I served tow tenures as Branch Secretary, Comrades Vincent Lucky, Ederehwevbie Godfrey (PH.D) both served me as Branch Secretary and Treasurer of same Union when I was chairman, Egube Israel, Ruth Iduruku, Shaka Rosemary, Obominuru Bridget, and my Immediate family, Mrs. Julie Adjarho, Kesiena Christable, Jesuovie Great, Oghenekobiru Miracle, Oghenemise David Peniel, Egbagbara, Stephanie Oghenemaro Kennedy and my Mother, Aduviekeya Grace Egbagbara, for their advice, support, patient and burning the midnight candle with me anytime I have a paper to present. God bless you all in Jesus Name.
In attempting to understand the future, an excursion through the past is a necessary route. In the same way, some understanding of the present is a necessity for just the same reason, on these therefore, the write up will be delineated into three parts: The first part will examine the school head roles role in the past, the second will highlight such a role in the present, while the third part will be a projection into the future, and the last, a synthesis by way of a conclusion will be attempted.
THE ROLE OF THE SCHOOL HEAD IN THE EARLY MISSION SCHOOL ERA AND BEYOND.
The distinctive roles schools heads played during this period drew heavily from a sense of superiority. It was a feeling, though also a strategy to psychologically dominate the Native and maintain unchallenged authority, arrogating to themselves monopoly of a civilizing mission, the white school head everywhere, despite his strong religious background, maintained an iron curtain around his school. By so doing, he developed and sustained a myth around his personality, his school and all that went within. As a matter of fact, the early boarding house system was aimed at shielding schools from the corrupting influence of the immediate communities, Lugard (1893, PP 73-74) gave the following advice to English missionaries on how they should treat Africans.
“The essential point in dealing with African is to established a respect for European. Upon this, the prestige of the white man depends on his influence. He shows by surrounding and by his assumption superiority, that he is above the Native, he will be respected. To maintain it, a missionary must at all times assert himself and repel an insolent familiarity which is a thing entirely apart from friendship born to respect and affection. His dwelling house should be as superior to those of the Natives as he is himself superior to them.
Such righteous conviction of superiority which the white missionary school heal conducted his roles was to be copied by his black replacement. Not only did the school remain Ivory tower, having nothing to do with the very communities, students are being prepared to help develop on completion, their curriculum, at this period was predominantly alien and distressing unrelated to communities needs. Even the black school head, the principal, perhaps from a few kilometers away, maintained, a social and physical distances to his kilt and kim. What, however, it may be asked where the underlying reasons especially with respect of the Africa principal, that sustained such a dichotomy between the school and community and the reluctance or unwillingness on the part of the school head to ameliorate. For unless we are able to appropriately account.
For this, our subsequent examination of other stages, present and future, will not be given for any adequate strategies to be derived that will help the school in meeting the challenges of his time. First, it must be appreciated that apart from the blind following their model white predecessors, The African School head during the period under consideration saw himself and with an appreciable degree of truth as being over educated in comparison to the predominantly unlettered community, values of the community were in several cases opposed or at least different from those transmitted in schools. And convinced of the modernizing role of their endeavors, school heads were bound to view any strong relationship with their communities as opening the way for the few school product, to return to the familiar terrain of their traditional community life.
Secondly, whatever maybe the force of arguments presented that school must be made relevant by incorporating issues from the immediate environment in their curriculum, there is obvious and important provision. The extent of incorporation must be dependent on whatever ideas are likely to come from, schools are mainly aimed at learning not only New ways but also developing the mind, both of which the communities at this early styles were quite deficient. A very academic curriculum whichever the local peoples preferred (Fanfunwa 1974 P. 175) could not give sufficient need for the school head to venture into the community for assistance. The demand for clerks and literate personnel, on the one hand and the desire for salaried job on the other “Nduka (1964, P. 132) had argued motivated education at this period and it was from schools rather than the communities that these skills could be acquired.
B. School communities relations from 1969 to the present.
If the missionary school head succeeded in alienating himself and his school from the immediate community, this was largely due to absence of an enlightened public capable of challenging him. Immediately after political independence, voice of disserts had become widespread, leading to several calls for a National curriculum conference in 1969 Fafunwa and Adaralegbe (main characters of the 1969 National conference) had in August of that year same year, just one month to the National one organized a seminar under the auspices of the institute of Education University of Ife, (Now Obafemi Awolowo University), with the theme towards Better Administration and supervision of instruction. An important sub-there was school community relationship” interesting discussion here focused on the role of the principal among other things was viewed that;
1. There was unlimited human and physical resources in every community that can be organized and utilized. He the school head must study and understand the community.
2. The community needs to be taken along in all programmes concerning the school.
3. Because off the financial support, the schools need to be in close relationship with the community. This must be done through understanding by participation of the community in the affairs of the school. (Fufunwa and Adaralegbe 1974 P. 178). Thereafter, eighteen different ways were suggested through which the school head can bring all these about. Some of these include establishing some kind of advisory communities among the communities, providing adequate leadership, organize active parent-teachers association develop human resources files, make school plant facilities available for the use of the community. Keep the community fully informed of events in the school, involve teachers and students in making plans and participate in several activities which could improve the school-community relationship.
The country’s policy in education, the direct out of that conference end or seal mains ideals. The policy document consequently makes provision for (1) intimate and direct participation and involvement at the local level in the administration and management of the local school. (2) effective lines of communications between the local communities and the state arid National machinery for policy formulation and implementation (Nigeria 1981, P 44).
Careful reading of both the discussions of the Ife Seminar and the National Policy on education reveals the conditions which makes the school head leadership in forging school-community relationships necessary. The schools as centres of ideas and innovation can no longer match ahead without taking into congnizance the communities in which they exist. They are therefore saddled with the onerous responsibilities of taking the communities along the school head acting as the arrow head of that effort. Thus talks of making school plants available for the use of the communities, an idea which transforms schools into communities education centres (CECs) only goes to buttress the role of the school in social changes of local communities. In the same light, a rejection that school is a place for acquiring abstract principles, which do not affect the lives of the local inhabitants implied that the school head can no longer act like a hermit. His responsibilities now includes as well as some efforts to educate the whole community.
What a factor, it may be asked, how contributed to make the school head a willing agent in fostering school-community relations? First the general level of education of the community persons has tremendously increase and so the school heads can no longer claim monopoly of knowledge. They can on account of that rely on the huge pool of experience that are not part of his teaching staff. He is compelled, as it were to interact with them, because there is reciprocity of respect between himself and members of the community once in a while, he feels compelled to invite some members to share their experiences with his school community.
Secondly unlike in the past, when local community members viewed the school as civilizing agencies, in which they remain grateful for rendering services, their perception is now radically changed, with their added responsibilities of maintaining these schools, they expect the schools to serve them. The era of undue reverence is over.
To secure continued good will therefore, the school head needs to be creative and develop public relations skills that can impress on his new master. How often are school children made to clean the community square, clear the village stream or even invite local leaders to talk on speech and prize giving days? A good school head of today needs to keep a good dairy of these important events which portrays him as capable and so worth of assistance. Finally with the era long gone in which secondary school products had a choice in employment due to large turn over, school heads (principals) are increasingly under pressure to seek for captains of industry and others to give necessary guidance to the students. Equally talks of involving community experts in different skilled areas to assist in imparting these to learners, no matter its practical difficulty can only be implemented with a school head who can build bridges between the school and the community.
C. THE PRESENT DAY CHALLENGES
The present day, twenty first century challenges is already here with us. Do we then expects things to be radically transformed in just those few years left to go. This is a period of technological dominance of almost every facets of our lives, when information is almost accessible to all, the level of literacy is double or even tripled. All these will make the realization of such once lofty ideas, as school without walls possible.
At the school period the level of education of a great proportion of the population will overtake that of the school heads and staff. The community rather than the school will become the harbinger of social change, because the rate of development, whether technological or political will be so rapid that schools which are traditionally known for the conservation and propagation of relevant ideals will need to be appropriately attuned to be able to keep pace. Thus rather than looking on schools for necessary direction, communities or the society will be offering such lead. While these are what we expect in present day 21st century, what stands out is rapid social change in the community then it hitherto been. Schools will lose their social status as centres of information of knowledge in the way they used to. From a giver status, they are likely to convert to a receiver one. A situation which makes the need for the relationship with their communities even more pressing on them. Furthermore the schools depend more on the communities for moral and financial assistance. How can a school head bring about better relationship with his community in response to the challenges of the 21st century.
To do all these, the school head necessarily heeds to develop for himself the necessary characteristics of innovators as well as those of innovative institution for as we have earlier said, when operating environment changes, so must the actors or agents. Off all the generations, Roger (1965) gave for innovators, two particularly relevant here, being cosmopolite and exercising opinion leadership. Certainly being cosmopolite is the converse of being a hermit which characterized, the first phase in this evolutionary role of the school head (principal) in fostering school community relationship. With the changes in the community, the school head can no longer succeed by perching on their office chairs for all working hours and after that retires to a solitary even. The new circumstances requires them to interact personally with all levels of the community, out of which they will be in a position to gain sympathy for potent than formal ones can be created through participation in matters beyond the precincts of their schools.
Exercising opinion leadership, extents the school heads being sufficient very intelligent to carry the school along the direction of his new task of vigorously pursuing ways of foster interaction with the community. The twenty first century community will be more willing to co-operate and assist those schools that respond to issues that are in line with the current level of interest. For what interest will a computer company take for a school which has nothing to do with computer literacy or application, if approached for any form of assistance?
A school head may well say this, is not yet approved school certificate subject, why bothered to introduced it on any scale. Such a school head (principal) would have bowed to the intimidating presence of a conservative education ministry. But he has succeeded in alienate the school from an important component of the community.
Morris (1978, P105) has explained that, in a really organization, its members are really clear about goals and their acceptability” when it is agreed that the task of fostering schools community relation is not exclusive to the school heads but includes every staff with the head of school acting only as the leader. It is easy to realize how important it is for all to be aware of the challenging task that lies ahead. The school head, especially the principal should have a singular responsibilities of sensitizing staff of the need to bring about good relationships and even how this can be done. The awareness upon clarification by principals that the survival and even reputations depends heavily on how their immediate community looks at them, may well galvanize staff into working to achieve such a goal. For instance, if a staff are made to know that responsibilities comes through perception by the community, that staff are adequately informed and trained, the school head (principal) assistance in enabling his staff acquire these will be an important means of fostering desired, school community relations. The same applies to students performance and staff responsibilities to teach in order to achieve expected results. This is so in the light of what Morris (1978. P63) has identified as a major cause of disaffection to schools by community persons. According to him “if parent are in fact dissatisfied with the services of a particular school they may, of course, complain to their local education authority or to the Governor of the schools and request some changes in its works or methods or they may request that their children are sent to another school. Finally as a last resort parents may in sheer desperation leave the district so that their children may be allocated to a different and perhaps more satisfactory school.
School heads (principals) will need to be more willing to identify emerging community needs and explores ways of meeting them to the best of their ability, thereby agree with Amajironwu (in Nwoye 1995 P78) that the community can not enjoy the respect of the formal school set up in their midst, if the schools are not able to finds ways by which the community can look up to them (schools) as centre for their welfare and growth as a people” This with little doubt, places considerable burden on our school heads (principals) of the next century to be resourceful, imaginative and creative so that they will constantly make communities appreciative of their continued relevance by the way they either create or identify and solve problems that are to the benefit of their communities. The communities will Nationally in turn be willing to co-operate with the school by either offering them any form of assistance required by the schools or even assigning some responsibilities to the schools to execute at some price the net result is a situation of interdependence which is of course the best expression of any genuine relationship.
The roles of the school head and performance in fostering school – community relatives have taken different characteristics. Beginning with the early period in which he played a negative role by a living a life of seclusion both of himself and the school, it has progressed steadily to the present in which the need to foster interdependence has been fully appreciated. In the past the seclusion was caused by the feelings that schools could not learn anything from their immediate communities, a situation which was reinforced by the huge contrast in educational attainment between the school heads (principals) and community members. The conception has changed. Although still looked as a centre of innovation, the general level of education in the community has been raised. Communities now also play some meaningful roles to sustain the schools. Thus we now find schools and communities in search of one another. The school head is now under some pressure as a result to court community co-operation in the same way in which communities are demanding that school open their portals for individuals to be exposed to innovations that needed in the community.
The Twenty-first century, brings with it more challenges than hitherto experienced. The levels of educational attainment of the average community person may surpass that of the school head. Higher technological and social changes outside the school will make schools to be more dependent than before. All these will require schools heads who are resourceful, imaginative and with an innovative instinct to not only create new demands for communities which they can provide assistance in overcoming. They will also be expected to become good mixers so as to be able to communicate with the communities. This is how the school heads most especially the principal can respond to the present day, twenty-first century challenge. God bless the teachers and the teaching profession.
Comr. Blessing Egbagbara (PH.D) JP+
Mersmars Consult (Education Management, Guidance & Counseling, carriers Consultants)
Ofuoma-Ughelli, Delta State.