Community relations as an effective tool for school plant management




In this piece, Uji Abdullahi Iliyasu examines school administration and explains the term, ‘school plant’, its utilisation  and how community relations helps in the maintenance and safeguarding of school facilities.

School Plant

School plant is defined as all those facilities that are built for and owned by an educational institution which aid the smooth teaching and learning experiences. In fact, school plants include all teaching aids available in the school premises. Therefore, any resource, the enjoyment of which helps in imparting knowledge, constitutes school plant.  Libraries, laboratories, classrooms, boreholes, farms, sports field, garden,  exam hall and even the pathways in the  school premises fall within this definition. School plant in other words, is everything within the school premises which includes the site, buildings, equipment and all essential structures, permanent and non-permanent as well as machines and laboratory equipment and others.

Management

Management is the process of dealing with or controlling things or people, e.g. “the management of the economy.” It is the organisation and coordination of the activities of a business in order to achieve defined objectives.  According to the management guru Peter Drucker (1909-2005), the basic task of management includes both marketing and innovation. It is simply running an institution in the most cost-effective ways for optimum realisation of its ultimate objectives. Here, our objective is teaching and learning experiences through effective teaching given by efficient teaching staff.

Community relations

Community relations define how an establishment or an organisation, in our case, school, relates well and in a cordial environment with its neighbours, in order for the two parties to enjoy mutual benefits.  A good relationship with the environment will ensure that school plants are maintained in good condition and are not tampered with as the community members will see any of such school plants as benefiting to both the school and the community. Community relations can be seen as a firm’s interactions with the people constituting the environment it operates in and draws resources from, to foster mutual support and understanding.

Geographical location of school plant

According to Whawo (1993), the geographical location of the school is a determining factor; computers and the likes are also inclusive, and so on. The major task of educational administration is to utilize all available resources in an effort to achieve the objectives for which schools are established. The procurement and maintenance of school equipment costs school proprietors a lot of money; this cost factor accounts for the unavailability of very essential school facilities in most public schools in Nigeria. Research findings support the contention that a strong relationship exists between the quality of a school plant and the academic achievement of students (Ololube, 2009). The majority of parents, who are aware of this, spend time searching for well-equipped schools with high quality infrastructural facilities for their children and wards.

Good Leadership

Facilities cannot manage themselves except there is good leadership that will set the ball rolling. Leadership, whether in the primary, secondary schools and tertiary institutions, has a vital role to play in the maintenance of school plant. Ministry workers do not stay in educational institutions on a daily basis in order to dictate what is going wrong or right with the school plant. The school authorities should be more concerned about what the students’ needs are at their developmental stages and instructional levels. The students should be properly accommodated in their various classrooms and adequate facilities and equipment provided for their effective learning. Facilities and Equipment should be for both indoor and outdoor learning so as to cater for overall development of the learner. Those facilities and equipment should be properly maintained for them to render their services always, physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and others. Kenezevich (1975:563) emphasized that “the physical needs are met through provision of safe structure, adequate sanitary facilities, a balanced visual environment, appropriate thermal environment and sufficient shelter space for work and play.” The learner’s emotional needs are met by creating pleasant surroundings, a friendly atmosphere and an inspiring environment. The head of an institution should make it a point of duty to appoint people whose task it is to check all these facilities and equipment and submit their report to the authorities for adequate attention. In that case, maintenance culture should be part and parcel of institutions of learning in Nigeria.

Effective Monitoring of the users of school plant

Setting up monitoring team in every educational institution to check the school plant and the people using them and writing an official report about their findings, would go a long way making these school plant last long and remain valuable for effective use. When they are left unattended to, there is likelihood that they will deteriorate and will not be useful for educative process. The users should also be educated to make use of equipment they are meant for teaching and learning and that is why in-service training is recommended for both academic and non-academic staff. The training will help them understand the facilities and equipment better for service delivery. Leaving the equipment lying fallow in our various educational institutions or neglecting them is not for the best interest of education in our nation. Students should be made to understand that the school plant is for the interest of all and all hands must be on deck to keep them in good condition so as to make them serviceable.

Community relations and its strategic importance to school plants

Community relations, as one chief executive recently put it, “is food for the soul of the organization.” No longer is an afterthought or corporate window-dressing, community relations, as more chief executives are acknowledging, now a serious, strategic aspect of business for American companies, a fundamental ingredient for the health of the enterprise.”

Competitive business and social pressures are forcing a redefinition of the relationship between company and community. When a company makes a commitment to the community part of its core business strategy, it not only helps attract and retain top employees, but it also positions itself positively among customers and, increasingly, improves its position in the market. Positive, proactive connections to the community can translate into a boost to the bottom line.

Maintaining school plant for effective functionality

Principals of schools should be thinking of the best interest of the learners under their care and one way of showing this interest is maintaining of the school plant. The minds of staff and students should be prepared by making them understand that they are one family and that the structures in the school premises belong to them and it is their duty to keep them in good condition after each use.

Principals should not give out any part of the school plant for commercial use since the users are likely to cause some damages which will take a lot to repair.

The school managers should form committee to take care of school plant on a regular basis and present a written report to the school principal.

The community stake holders, if approached, will participate in maintaining the school plant. Robbery of properties on the school compound (for example, government girls secondary school, Rumuokuta some years back) was discovered to have been done by some boys from that community any time the school receives any new equipment. The school principal decided to make a formal report to the stake holders who swung into action and found the culprits and they made their parents replace those items and repair the damages done to the principal’s office. That ended the robbery case in that school for that period.

The Parent-teachers-Association also is a very powerful organ to use to ensure that school plant is maintained regularly by making funds available. As we all know, lack of funds causes delay of any project. When funds are provided, the skilled men/women should be employed to swing into action for results to be achieved.

Principals should make it known to school staff that no school property should be converted to private property. This will surely prolong the life span of the property. If the school vehicle is used to carry out official duty it will last for a long time, coupled with regular servicing.

There should be periodic inspection and repairs of school plant so as to make teaching and learning worthwhile.

Recommendations

Eye witness has shown that public secondary schools are very important in raising the greater tomorrows, therefore, effort should be put in maintaining the school plant for better teaching and learning. It should be a collective effort so as to achieve success.

The acute shortage of finances, the gross misappropriation of public funds and the misplaced priorities in the education sector have made it impossible for adequate promotion of education.

Public secondary schools in every state of the nation carry a lot of population therefore the school plant should be increased and updated to cue in with the technological learning. Teachers should also be given in-service training on the use of the facilities (ICT) and its maintenance.




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