Nigeria has more out-of-school children than any other country in the world. Around 10.5 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are not in school.
A key government strategy to get more children into school, and improve school quality, is to increase parental and community participation.
Parental and community involvement in various aspects of schooling – ensuring that children go to school, contributing cash or labour to construct classrooms, and participating in school management –- is part of a more general trend towards educational decentralisation in Nigeria. But, in practice, full community engagement is particularly difficult in areas where people are poor (so are short of time and money) and have often not gone to school themselves.
What’s more, for community participation in education to work, good relationships between schools and communities are essential.
As part of a larger study on primary schooling in Adamawa State, northern Nigeria, we looked closely at interactions between six government primary schools and communities. The fieldwork for the research was conducted over six months and involved observing and talking to school, community and local government officials in each location.
We found that a lack of proper consultation about issues – such as where schools should be located, and a lack of flexibility about how they should operate – stood in the way of positive relationships between communities and those running the schools. It also resulted in a lack of respect for school boundaries, which made it difficult for schools to function properly.
We concluded that schools need to interact with a broader range of parents and community members. They also need to listen and respond to community and parental needs, rather than assuming school priorities are more important.
Understanding the context
Two urban schools were located in and just outside the state capital; another two were in provincial urban areas and two were rural. The schools also varied greatly in size, condition and intake – from 500 to 3,000 pupils.
At one extreme, the smaller rural school had 500 pupils from nearby farming communities. They struggled to learn from mainly unqualified teachers in dilapidated, filthy classrooms with insufficient furniture and virtually no teaching materials. There was also a lack of electricity, water or toilets.
At the other end of the spectrum, the popular school in the centre of the state capital drew over 1,700 pupils from across the city, from a mix of families of traders, civil servants and farmers. Pupils were learning from better qualified teachers in new classrooms with proper desks. They also benefited from a well-stocked library, computer centre, water and separate toilet blocks for girls and boys.
The first step we took was to get to grips with structures that had been set up to facilitate school and community interactions. Relatively newly formed school-based management committees were supposed to involve elected community members in school management.
We found that at all six schools these committees only really existed on paper. This was because no resources were allocated to support them. The school, community and even local government officials remained unclear about their purpose.
We also set out to understand the role of parent teacher associations. These only carried out a limited range of activities. Mainly, they responded to requests from the school, communicating school needs or demands to other parents and to the community more generally. Their activities also included urging parents to enrol their children in school, or ensure that they attended regularly and got to school on time.
Parent teacher associations also appealed to community members for materials or labour for school building work.
In contrast, there was very little communication in the other direction as the schools rarely asked for, or listened to the concerns of ordinary parents or community members. Indeed, in any dispute between school and parents, the parent teacher associations tended to take the side of the school.
This meant that the voices of poorer and more marginalised parents were rarely heard. At the same time, a hierarchy was established that put the needs of the school above those of parents and the community.
The politics of boundaries
Our research also looked at the role of school boundaries in school-community relations. We looked at physical boundaries (such as a fence or wall) as well as temporal ones (such as the timetable and school holidays). Both sets of boundaries were sources of tension.
Physical boundaries are highly politicised. On the one hand, schools, as organisations serving communities, needed to be accessible to parents and other visitors. On the other hand, they needed to claim and protect their own physical space within the community – to assert their authority, regulate the attendance of both staff and pupils, and keep out unwelcome outsiders.
Temporal boundaries were also fraught. For example, school timetables did not necessarily fit in with the rhythms of community life, such as planting and harvesting seasons, market days or Friday prayers at the mosque.
Only the two schools in the state capital were fully enclosed behind walls, with guarded gates. Boundaries were porous at the other schools. In these cases, teachers, pupils and other community members came and went at will – sometimes in search of water, food or a toilet. In several schools, people with no school-related business were found in the school grounds both during and after lessons.
And local community members in these less well-protected schools reportedly used classrooms for parties and as a toilet or for animal shelter after school hours. They often left the classrooms in unsanitary conditions that pupils – usually girls – were required to clean before the start of lessons.
Boundaries also lay at the heart of many community-school disputes over land, access to water, and rights of way. In rural schools, pastoralists would drive their herds through school grounds along previously established trails. Examples in urban locations included communities maintaining a road-traffic thoroughfare across a school and using space near early years classrooms as a rubbish dump.
The antagonistic community-school relations strongly suggest limited negotiations among stakeholders, especially ordinary community members, and a lack of consensus about the siting of schools.
This made it hard for schools to claim their space, secure their boundaries and function effectively. Such difficulties had implications for the potential of community participation to help out-of-school children in Nigeria realise their rights to quality education.
Clearly school authorities need to negotiate with a broader range of stakeholders from the outset to get consensus on where schools can be sited and boundaries established as well as on issues such as access to water and school timetables. More generally, community participation in schooling – through the likes of the parent teacher association or school-based management committee – needs to involve more give and take, with schools responding more to what communities and parents want and need.
Nigeria has more out-of-younger students than some other country on the planet. Around 10.5 million kids between the ages of 5 and 14 are not in school.
A key government methodology to get more kids into school, and improve school quality, is to build parental and local area support.
Parental and local area association in different parts of tutoring – guaranteeing that youngsters go to class, contributing money or work to build study halls, and taking an interest in school the executives – – is essential for a more broad pattern towards instructive decentralization in Nigeria. However, practically speaking, full local area commitment is especially troublesome in territories where individuals are poor (so are shy of time and cash) and have frequently not gone to class themselves.
In addition, for local area interest in instruction to work, great connections among schools and networks are fundamental.
As a feature of a bigger report on essential tutoring in Adamawa State, northern Nigeria, we took a gander at connections between six government elementary schools and networks. The hands on work for the exploration was led more than a half year and included noticing and conversing with school, local area and nearby government authorities in every area.
We found that an absence of appropriate conference about issues –, for example, where schools ought to be found, and an absence of adaptability about how they ought to work – disrupted the general flow of positive connections among networks and those running the schools. It likewise brought about an absence of regard for school limits, which made it hard for schools to work appropriately.
We presumed that schools need to collaborate with a more extensive scope of guardians and local area individuals. They likewise need to tune in and react to local area and parental necessities, instead of accepting school needs are more significant.
Understanding the unique situation
Two metropolitan schools were situated in and right external the state capital; another two were in common metropolitan territories and two were rustic. The schools likewise changed enormously in size, condition and admission – from 500 to 3,000 students.
At one outrageous, the more modest country school had 500 students from close by cultivating networks. They attempted to gain from for the most part unfit instructors in feeble, tarnished homerooms with lacking furnishings and essentially no educating materials. There was additionally an absence of power, water or latrines.
At the opposite finish of the range, the well known school in the focal point of the state capital drew more than 1,700 students from across the city, from a blend of groups of dealers, government employees and ranchers. Students were gaining from better qualified educators in new homerooms with appropriate work areas. They likewise profited by an all around supplied library, PC focus, water and separate latrine blocks for young ladies and young men.
The initial step we took was to will grasps with structures that had been set up to encourage school and local area collaborations. Moderately recently shaped school-based administration boards of trustees should include chose local area individuals in school the executives.
We found that at all six schools these boards just truly existed on paper. This was on the grounds that no assets were assigned to help them. The school, local area and even neighborhood government authorities stayed indistinct about their motivation.
We likewise set out to comprehend the part of parent instructor affiliations. These lone completed a restricted scope of exercises. Essentially, they reacted to demands from the school, conveying school needs or requests to different guardians and to the local area all the more by and large. Their exercises additionally remembered encouraging guardians to select their kids for school, or guarantee that they went to routinely and had the opportunity to class on schedule.
Parent educator affiliations likewise spoke to local area individuals for materials or work for school building work.
Interestingly, there was almost no correspondence the other way as the schools once in a while requested, or tuned in to the worries of standard guardians or local area individuals. Surely, in any contest among school and guardians, the parent educator affiliations would in general take the side of the school.
This implied that the voices of more unfortunate and more minimized guardians were seldom heard. Simultaneously, an order was set up that put the requirements of the school over those of guardians and the local area.
The governmental issues of limits
Our exploration likewise took a gander at the part of school limits in school-local area relations. We took a gander at actual limits, (for example, a fence or divider) just as fleeting ones, (for example, the plan and school occasions). The two arrangements of limits were wellsprings of pressure.
Actual limits are exceptionally politicized. From one viewpoint, schools, as associations serving networks, should have been open to guardians and different guests. Then again, they expected to guarantee and secure their own actual space inside the local area – to affirm their position, control the participation of both staff and understudies, and keep out unwanted untouchables.
Fleeting limits were likewise laden. For instance, school schedules didn’t really find a place with the rhythms of local area life, for example, planting and gathering seasons, market days or Friday petitions at the mosque.
Just the two schools in the state capital were completely encased behind dividers, with monitored entryways. Limits were permeable at different schools. In these cases, educators, understudies and other local area individuals traveled every which way voluntarily – now and then looking for water, food or a latrine. In a few schools, individuals with no school-related business were found in the school grounds both during and after exercises.
What’s more, neighborhood local area individuals in these less very much ensured schools allegedly utilized study halls for parties and as a latrine or for creature cover after school hours. They frequently left the study halls in unsanitary conditions that students – normally young ladies – were needed to clean before the beginning of exercises.
Limits likewise lay at the core of numerous local area school disagreements regarding land, admittance to water, and privileges of way. In rustic schools, pastoralists would drive their groups through school grounds along recently settled path. Models in metropolitan areas included networks keeping a street traffic lane across a school and utilizing space close to early years homerooms as a refuse dump.
The opposing local area school relations firmly recommend restricted dealings among partners, particularly conventional local area individuals, and an absence of agreement about the siting of schools.
This made it difficult for schools to guarantee their space, secure their limits and capacity viably. Such troubles had suggestions for the capability of local area cooperation to assist of-younger students in Nigeria understand their privileges to quality instruction.
Unmistakably school specialists need to haggle with a more extensive scope of partners from the beginning to get agreement on where schools can be sited and limits set up just as on issues, for example, admittance to water and school schedules. All the more by and large, local area interest in tutoring – through any semblance of the parent instructor affiliation or school-based administration board – necessities to include more give and take, with schools reacting more to what networks and guardians need a lot.