Every parent’s wish is for their children to be the best in their endeavours. This is expected, but how the children achieve such feat becomes a source of worry, considering the parents’ meddlesomeness and influence in their children’s education.
This comes in different forms including influencing their academic performances and positions such as class or school prefects, monitors and others. This is fast becoming the tradition and it is a dangerous trend.
There are cases where parents bribe teachers to give their children good grades and positions. Some school proprietors connive with parents and teachers to make special arrangement for their children to write examinations with the assistance of outsiders to enable them perform well. Sometimes, parents even arrange ‘special centres’ for the wards. This is the common trend these days.
Meanwhile, being a nerd is not a basis of becoming a leader, but it could be a plus where the other essential factors are present. At the commencement of every academic session, every school appoints a head boy and a head girl to lead the students.
Head boys and girls are usually lead their schools’ team to inter-school events and therefore, should be able to make public speeches. The aim is to choose pupils and students who exemplify the mission and vision statement of the school.
To be selected, appointed or elected, the head boy or girl must have contributed to different aspects of school life, be seen to be reliable and helpful and should be good in their academics. They should show that they are successful learners, confident individuals and responsible students with a sense of pride in whatever they do.
As good ambassadors, they uphold the school rules and learning charter and help to ensure that other students do the same by representing the schools well in and around the community.
Also, as part of their responsibilities and privileges, they act as good example and role models to other students through their attitude, cleanliness of their uniforms, punctuality, attendance and general conduct.
The days when students were given the responsibilities of a head boy or girl based on academic performance are gone. In some schools, the students or the head teacher may elect a head boy or girl from among the pupils and students.
In most schools today, particularly the private ones, selection of head boy or girl have taken a new dimension, as the processes now look like a typical election in the national scene.
As it obtains in the tertiary institutions, every nooks and crannies of the universities and their immediate community are usually awash with campaign posters, banners, billboards, as well as leaflets bearing aspirants photographs and campaign slogans.
For some parents, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the new development, as they argue that the development would help instill the spirit of healthy competition, the idea of losing or winning in a contest, how to be magnanimous in victory and how to be good losers.
Speaking on the issue, a parent, Dr. Jaiyeoba Folusho Ilesanmi, who is also a psychologist and senior lecturer in the department of Public Administration and Industrial Relations and Personnel Management, Lagos State University, Ojo, there is nothing wrong with the development.
“It is part of the extra-curricular activities aimed at developing good leadership. It helps to model the students and open up their minds to what the larger society does. During our time, it was the school management-the principal and the teachers-that select the head boy and or head girl.
“They do this in the developed countries and it is part of what has helped their election processes. Youths do not act in barbaric ways in developed countries because they are used to the system but most Nigerian youths go through their first election process when they get to university and that it is usually as terrible as a national election,” he added.
Jaiyeoba further explained that the election process largely reflects what goes on in the larger society, adding that it is all about leadership training of the students and it helps to prepare them to assume leadership roles in the society in the future.
“It is a predictive of what happens in the future. Often, people coming from that rank to the university usually become students’ union executives and when they graduate, they become political activists and politicians. It has far reaching implications for development,” he stated.
However, those against the development argued that over-zealous rich parents often use the medium to flaunt their wealth in schools by corrupting innocent children and putting pressure on other parents.
“I do not think much funding is required for the electioneering process at these levels. My wife is a school principal and there is a lot of modesty in how the campaigns are run.
“It is usually a social thing and does not require spending much money. It is just a way of canvassing votes from the electorate. However, some parents may bring in their own pattern to the process and we cannot run away from that.
“By and large, the student popularity does not depend on whether he has money or not. Other factors that come into play include the student’s academic performance, social capital —that is, how they are able to move along with their fellow students. This notwithstanding, does not dispute the fact that money also plays some role in the process,” he explained.
Jaiyeoba noted that the society is a reflection of the students just like the students are a reflection of the society. He added that the negative aspect of the development maybe distraction to the student in their academic work. He, however, stressed that if a student is good, he is good and may not necessarily be affected by his participation in other activities.
“I believe having elite youth during election time that understand electoral process will help the country in future. We need to localise the democratic culture, we need to start from the primary school level all the way up. What the authorities should do is set the minimum academic requirement for pupils to contest,” he said.
The only problem some parents have is when they display the campaign posters outside the school gate and walls and all motorists and passersby see it, stressing that the election is meant for the students’ community and not the general public.
Supporting Jaiyeoba’s view, Mrs. Francisca Becon, also said there was absolutely nothing wrong with the development, saying that she wished the trend could be replicated in all schools right from the primary level.
She stressed that the development will instill healthy competition, winning or losing, how to be magnanimous in victory and how to be a good loser.
“When I was in secondary school, our entire prefects were chosen through an election. We even had a manifesto night. The school is even a public school. I don’t think it is any big deal in the development. It is good to teach our pupils electoral ethics and values right from a young age. It is a good development and it helps the children to think and appreciate what leadership entails.
“It is fun because my kids tell me when they go to the kindergarten school to campaign that they tell them things like: ‘If you vote for me, I will give you pencil, eraser, sharpener and other items. They have even memorized the campaign speeches and all that,” she said.
While the development is gradually becoming a norm in most private schools, those against the trend say very soon, public primary and secondary schools would copy it and those who cannot afford the process but are desirous of the position would end up stealing to compete.
They argue that the trend was not developing democracy; but rather, it would pollute the children and create unnecessary and unhealthy rivalry in schools as it catches on. They argued that a poor boy whose parents are not well to do cannot be a school representative.
They further argued that few affluent children started celebrating birthdays in schools and before anyone knew, it other kids’ parents were pressured into celebrating their birthdays in schools.
Babatunde Lawal, an I.T expert, said: “This is so wrong at least for primary school pupils. I remember when I used to teach, I tried this with my primary three pupils. I was speechless when I saw the kids rigging the election; some did multiple voting. You can imagine a class of 30 pupils and number of votes stood at about 40. I had to cancel the election.”
He noted that a class or school president is different from prefect position, adding that when he was in secondary school, they once held election for student representatives but prefects were selected based on merit.
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