Does your child’s school know its teachers?
My wife asked me a question during the week – “How come I have never received a past-employer reference request for any of our ex-employees?” My response – the other schools that have been employing them have chosen to be either ignorant or blatantly un-professional when it comes to ensuring that they carry out background checks on their employees.
They are perhaps too busy trying to ‘steal’ teachers from other schools that they turn a blind eye to finding out as much as they can about their new teachers.
Their actions contribute significantly to denigrating the value of teachers and the teaching profession, and they expose the rest of us to the possibility that convicted felons, known pedophiles and other miscreants could be in the classrooms teaching and taking care of our children, just because of the ignorance or lack of professionalism of the school authorities.
I reminded my wife however that this problem most likely persists because the school authorities just do not take these issues seriously. For example, I have at every forum that I have gotten a chance to speak to school owners, directors and senior management, spoken about the importance of background checks. In fact, I remember on two occasions where I was a keynote speaker, I actually went down on my knees to ‘beg’ the audience of school owners under the aegis of NAPPS to take background checks seriously.
I have also made similar pleas when speaking at education conferences and seminars, PTA events and even at School Graduation ceremonies, but it all seems like it has only fallen on deaf ears.
So, having tried all of these, I have decided to resort to a national clarion call via the newspapers, targeted this time beyond the school owners and authorities but to all of us – the parents, who pay the school fees, and who are ultimately responsible for their children, so they can p[partner with me to knock some sense into the heads of school leaders who refuse to carry out simple back-ground checks.
I think the problem on proper reflection stems from the high level of competition that exists between private schools these days. They compete on everything – teachers, children and exam results and many times in their desperate effort to compete they jettison common sense, ethics and morality.
So, they do not carry out the background checks just because they do not want their ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ school owner to know that it was they that poached one of their teachers right in the middle of term, causing a significant disruption to the other school.
The departing teacher therefore gave no notice, and in fact actually absconded after the mid-term break, because they were enticed by a fractional increase in their salary. Both parties, the departing teacher and the receiving school will like to pretend that this never happened (and save face), so, the last thing they are willing to do is to carry out a post-employment background check – after all they know what to expect – a negative reference!
It is this type of behaviour that deepens that lack of professionalism that is pervasive in the educational sector today, which the rest of us parents continue to condone, and worst than that pay for! We have reduced our school teachers to ‘house helps’ and ‘nannies’ whose standard response to the question – Why did you leave your previous job is always “My former madam and oga have relocated.”
When un-professional conduct like this is festered deliberately by school leaders, then they are opening up opportunities for other forms of unprofessional conduct and abuse by the teachers.
Today, some private schools are at the forefront of exam malpractice designed to keep them high on the NECO/JAMB/WAEC listings so that they can continue to attract patronage from desperate parents who like them have lost the sense of values.
This then translates lower down the school ladder to teachers demanding gratification from parents and in some cases at higher levels sexually exploiting students in exchange for success in school and exams.
Some private school owners are at the fore-front of the piracy of books used in their classrooms, choosing to make private arrangements with private printers to pirate recommended textbooks instead of approaching the publishers or buying the original books from the designated book stores.
When people wonder why corruption has become endemic in our land, they should look no further than our educational institutions and the leaders in that community who have sold their souls on account of the pecuniary gains that they wish to achieve, and have raped, violated and plundered the young minds, souls and bodies of children, leading only naturally to the widespread ills in the larger society.
So I make a clarion call to parents today. Right thinking parents who understand the value of education, and desire a better world for their children and the generations to come, please as you read this article, put a call across to your school director, and find out if they carry out background checks and the extent of such background checks that they carry out on their teachers. Refer them to this article if you must, and if they still fail to do so, then realise that you have a serious choice to make regarding your children’s school.
Barrow is the Co-Founder and Director of the Abuja-based Creative Learning International School.