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Impact Of Parents’ Interference On School Discipline In Nigeria

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By Richardson Ogwezzy

A congenial atmosphere is a prerequisite in educational institutions for effective teaching and learning to take place. The secondary school system, just like other systems, has students of all walks of life. As such, students of different backgrounds, have different behaviours, good and bad, cultured and uncultured, educable and seemingly uneducable, willing to learn and unwilling to learn, disciplined and indisciplined.

In secondary school administration, in order to manage these various groups of students, to enhance optimal actualization of secondary education goals and objectives, there are set rules and regulations which serve as benchmark for good conduct and as a check against unethical behaviour. Enforcing strict adherence to these rules and regulations is called discipline. The process of subjecting erring students to disciplinary measures is to ensure adequate security of every child, facilities and to provide conducive learning environment. This in turn translates into effective and steady development of students in line with the three domains of educational outcomes.

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In recent times, the rate of indiscipline in Nigerian secondary schools has been alarming. Every effort made by government and school authorities to address the problem has not yielded desired results. The act of indiscipline in Nigerian schools has reached a crescendo level where fighting, stealing, late coming, examination malpractice, drug abuse, absenteeism, bullying, cultism and so on, have become the order of the day.

But a more disturbing and disheartening level Nigerian students have graduated to is the crime of students committing suicide, students killing fellow students and teachers. In recent times, we have seen newspaper headlines like: Secondary School Student Commits Suicide After A Boy-Friend’s Betrayal, Students Beat Teacher to Death For Flogging His Younger Sister In Delta, Twelve-Year Old Dowen College Student Beaten To Death For Refusing To Join Cult(though still under investigation), 18 Year Old Girl Brings Gun To School To Kill Vice-principal Over Tinted Hair, A Student Of Government Science Technical College Stabs His Teacher. These have become common issues. Not only that, on the social media, there are cases of assaults on teachers all over the states of the federation.

Another worrisome situation of indiscipline in secondary schools is parents’ interference and intrusion in dealing with discipline problems in schools. Parents’ interference in school discipline is a situation whereby parents flagrantly penetrate the school environment in response to reports given by their children without decorum, regard for constituted authorities in the school and act in a way that is against the school rules and regulations which often triggers a chain of negative actions and reactions. Parents’ interference in school discipline is synonymous with another form of indiscipline in schools with high degree of atrocity. By implication, we have students’ indiscipline and that of parents. The development is devastating to school administration in Nigeria; it has placed teachers in a paranoic situation whenever they are discharging their duties with respect to discipline of students. Should teachers out of fear abandon enforcing discipline on students to avoid parents’ interference or not?

We also have the case of a woman taken thugs to beat up a student and a teacher at Jericho High School at Ibadan, during an ongoing PTA meeting. In another instance, a man storms Ogun school with cutlass, thugs to attack teacher who beats his daughter. Again, hoodlums storm Ogun school, two teachers hospitalized, others flee, are good examples of parents’ interference on school discipline. There are many cases where hoodlums and miscreants interfered in school administration to perpetuate unethical behaviour such as assaulting students and members of staff, burning of school buildings and learning facilities, burning of principals and teachers’ vehicles and so on. A secondary school in Delta State, has been closed down till further notice due to the activities of the hoodlums that got the school building burnt, damaged some learning facilities and burnt the principal’s car. In Nigeria presently, many secondary schools have been indefinitely closed down due to either students’ indiscipline or parents’ interference on school discipline.

It is necessary for teachers to apply wisdom and caution in enforcing discipline on students. This is because no parent will be happy to see his child returning from school with injuries and bruises on his body or hear of inhuman treatment meted to his child. Enforcing discipline is to correct or change the student’s behaviour in order to develop good character. There are principles for enforcing discipline which state that ‘the higher the level of punishment/discipline and pain experienced by a student, in process of enforcing discipline by a teacher, the more ineffective and counter-productive the whole process will be and as such the desired change in behaviour will not be achieved’. ‘”The lower the level of punishment/discipline and pain experienced in the process of enforcing discipline, the more effective the measure will be in bringing about desired results and change in behaviour”. One reason for this line of reasoning is that, the average student will be more inclined to react negatively when the punishment is severe. As such, the excessive pain will naturally becloud their sense of reasoning.

Not only that, the article on the child rights states that “every child is entitled to his or her respect for the dignity of his person and no child shall be subjected to torture, inhuman/degrading treatment.” Many rich Nigerians have used this constitutional provision to deal ruthlessly and mercilessly with teachers who enforced discipline on their children. Many Nigerian teachers are battling with court cases over discipline issues. I begin to imagine who is a Nigerian teacher to withstand a rich parent in a legal battle?

Worse still, any form of discipline enforced on students is taken as either torture, inhuman or degrading treatment by wealthy parents. My question is: is the safety of the teachers guaranteed? The fate of the teacher, has become so demoralizing and full of distractions. The unwholesome development has made some teachers to be indifferent towards discipline problems in schools. The implications are far–reaching both on the school system, the students, parents and the wider society. The collapse of discipline in the school system automatically means the collapse of learning. Students who cannot submit to discipline, will sooner or later graduate to full-scale criminality. They end up being a disgrace and menace to the home and society in general.

Some Nigerians attribute students’ indiscipline to low teachers’ job performance such as absenteeism, lateness to school and classes, shirking of responsibilities and so on. On the other hand, others attribute it to principals’ ineffectiveness in carrying out their administrative functions such inadequate instructional supervision, provision of learning materials, lateness and absenteeism etc These are infinitesimally true.

But, the bulk of the blame should be on the government who could not adequately provide good welfare packages, good working condition and adequate training and retraining for teachers. For instance, to ensure effective teaching in schools in Nigeria, teachers need capacity building through training and retraining to improve quality of service delivery in classrooms. Such training should also incorporate strategies for dealing with indiscipline which will go a long way to reduce the incidence of conflict and clashes between teachers and students and parents. How many states in Nigeria see training and retraining of her members of staff as important for high teachers’ job performance and principals’ effectiveness in school administration? Recently, Ogun State government embarked on training and retraining of teachers, head teachers and principals in private primary and public secondary schools in the state for effective educational service delivery. According to Ogun State Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Abayomi Arigbabu, “if you did not train people, you cannot accuse them of not doing the needful”. Delta State government long foresaw the relevance of training and retraining of teachers, hence the state government established Teachers Professional Development Centre(TPDC) for the training of principals and teachers to boost teaching and learning situations and enhance school administration – most especially, on ways to address the issues of acts of indiscipline which is now crime like or crime in disguise. If it is possible, one would suggest that Delta State government and even other states of the federation, should be giving parents training on school discipline. This will help to reduce the cases of parents’ interference on school discipline. All it take to mobilise resource person to interact with parents from school to school on Parents Teachers’ Association(PTA) platform.

As a teacher, I think some of what we call acts of indiscipline should be better termed crimes. The case of parents’ interference in the school system is even more of a huge challenge. The country’s secondary schools will be in jeopardy if something very urgent is not done to stop the terrible situation. It will be better for government at all tiers in the country to meet with stakeholders in education to fashion out ways of curbing acts of indiscipline in the system. Most especially on the aspect of parents’ interference in school discipline which, if not nipped at the bud, will spell doom and will have genocidal impact on education in the present and future generations. Apart from that, the government should know that Nigerian teachers are already in a battle with parents’ interference in school discipline.
It is expedient that the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria, should consider the prospect of enacting a law that will guarantee the safety of teachers, principals and other members of staff in the school system. The Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (ASUSS) and Nigerian Union of Teachers(NUT) executives both at the state and at the national level should think of statutory provisions for protecting their members from the humiliating circumstances faced by the exigencies on their work environment.

Richardson Ogwezzy is a Statistician as well as an Educational Administrator

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