Towards the end of May each academic year, parents of children attending school in a particular institution come together to discuss about issues concerning the education of their children. The meeting comes under the name PTA general assembly. The parents/teacher association is a body comprising of parents and teachers of an institution of learning who meet annually to discuss matters on the educational, moral and spiritual well-being of the students or pupils of a particular learning institution, either at the elementary or secondary school level. This body is basically made up of two arms; the Executive and the General Assembly. The general assembly meets once a year, while the executive meets as often as the need arises. Every child begins life within a particular family. The child is raised and taught some fundamental principles in life, such as what is right and what is wrong, the kind of behavior that society approves of and those which society regards as anti-social. Thus children begin life in a home environment learning and being exposed to life principles by their parents. This form of education termed informal education is gradually being thrown to the dust bin as many parents are absentee parents. Oh yes absentee parents, parents abandon their children to teachers and expect their teachers to perform miracles in formal learning institution. How many of us parents treat our children like human beings, how many parents are concern about the wellbeing of their children, how many parents take into consideration the delicate nature of molding a child through adolescence, how many parents listen to their children’s problems with kind attention or how many parents actually wish their children well? It is true that children’s success in life is to their own advantage but it is also true that parents have a responsibility to ensure that their children become successful in life as they will be their walking sticks at old age. Parents adopt the “I don’t care” attitude and fail in their role of being the children’s first teachers in an informal learning institution. They do this with impunity for after all no legal action awaits them. In turn you have parents who shy away from their responsibilities only to blame the children for being stubborn not knowing that they themselves are exposing their own weaknesses. Gradually, as the child grows older it becomes an imperative for the child to meet persons in a different environment where formal education takes place. This new environment is the school. At the beginning children have difficulties coping and accepting this “strange” place but they gradually begin to become accustomed to it. What is very important to note here is that discipline and learning which was initially and exclusively the responsibility of the parents, must now be shared between parents and teachers. The child begins to learn a lot of things and very new things, new ways of doing things and so forth. Besides the teachers who have become a new phenomenon in the child’s life, other pupils or students play a role in the life of the child because of constant interaction and communication. This phenomenon sometimes brings confusing in the mind of the child. It is however a very important process because it is the only means by which a child can acquire formal education and training and gain financial independence in future. Parents should be aware that this is natural and not the child’s fault. In effect, they need to demonstrate more love to their children and assure them of their protection. That way the children see their parents as a protector and not a threat. They turn to believe what they parents say and not doubt it. Teachers become the watch dogs and the regulators of the new way of life, helping the child to adapt to everything seemingly new for the child. This then buttresses the point that teachers are not merely supposed to teach their subjects, but to also contribute to the upbringing of the children and because the parents still play an important role in the life of the child, it becomes necessary and important to group the two main actors at this stage of the child’s life to work together in raising a complete human person. The idea of a PARENTS/TEACHERS ASSOCIATION or call it PTA, came to be borne out of the necessity to avoid conflicting methods and approaches in raising the child. In all institutions of learning be it private or public, you will not find one single school in the NW nor SW Regions of Cameroon without a body or association named a PTA. They have contributed immensely in the educational, material and moral well-being of the children. From the very moment that a child begins school, his or her life is no more influenced by the home environment, but also by the new environment which is the school. Parents are the primary actors in the life of the child and the teachers are secondary actors. Both are participating in the upbringing of the child in different ways and as a result it becomes very important to establish a common forum for both parents and teachers to come together to discuss issues pertaining to the welfare of the children. While the children are in school the teachers are acting in loco parentis, especially in the area of discipline, and therefore the necessity for both parties to meet annually to exchange notes and form a common ground of action in the best interest of their children. However, we have noticed with a lot of dismay that the PTA have been reduced to monetary issue. Where once you hear of PTA, what first comes to mind is money, the contribution of money and the management of the money contributed. Parents attend general assemblies just to have their own share of what they contributed. Parents behave as if they someone is forcing them to send their children to school while school administrators take advantage of the illiteracy of the parents and exploit them. How many PTA general assemblies are chaired by so called PTA presidents, how many PTAs are fully aware of their role in the school milieu, how many PTA executives are not elected based on the interest of the school authorities, how many PTA executives are not mere errand boys, these are just a few of inconsistencies that should be addressed and fast too.
Now comes the administrative authorities who will only attend a PTA general assembly if an envelope accompanies their initiation cards. They come just to justify what they received and their presence is equal to their absence. They pretend to allow the parents decide on issues that concern them whereas they mean something else. Every educational institution has its own set of values by which the standards of that institution are assessed. It is not sufficient for the school to send to parents, a list of school rules to which the children are to be subjected. It is most important for parents to understand the essence of those rules and regulations. Such understanding can only be derived in a forum of the Parents/teachers meeting. Parents need to understand the rules and regulation so as to encourage their kids to abide by them and as such learn their support to the institution to keep the standards and values in the interest of the kids. Where this is not possible, parents become disgruntled and critical of a system which is rather beneficial to their kids. ( e g owning mobile phones or other electronic gadgets in school, assorted clothes in school among others). But what we notice is disgraceful, parents go for general assembly and end up leaving as they came. Their interest all focused on entertainment at the end of the meeting. Rules are read to them, but they have no patience to listen, they are always in a hurry to go to where God alone knows and the next day they start complaining. We realize that the PTA meeting is very important as a forum for sharing ideas all geared towards helping our children develop both academic and moral strength and integrity. As parents we want the best for our kids and we should know and understand the environment in which they learn, the comfort of the environment, the facilities made available to achieve a holistic education. It is a well-known and established fact that school environment and regulations have been improved and made more conducive for learning over the years through a great deal of participation and contribution of ideas from parents. The more comfortable our children are in schools, the less worrisome we shall be as parents and as the old saying goes more heads are better than one, parents should therefore not look at general assembly meetings as a way to have their own share of the money they contributed but rather as an opportunity to contribute ideas on how better the institution could be organized to meet the needs of their children. School administrators should not look at parents during PTAs as bunch of fools but rather should look at them as people who want the best for their children. That way, there will be no need to rush over issues just because the parents are deemed unreasonable. Administrators and officials of the delegation should also play their watchdog role and avoid compliances with executives to swindle funds.