School maintenance not what PTAs for
Published on: Tuesday, May 05, 2015
By: Simon Linus
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The idea of Parent Teacher Associations (PTA/PIBG) was introduced in 1973. Over the years, the rules governing PTA/PIBG had been improved many times. Among them being the Education Regulation (PIBG) 1998 and in 2004 some State Education Departments issued a booklet which carried the heading “Garis Panduan Pengurusan PIBG”. Unfortunately this Garis panduan (guidelines) were considered by school administrators and some Jabatan Pendidikan Negeri officials as law governing the PTA/PIBG. They are wrong. The law of the association is its constitution and the content of the constitution depends on the members.

As the name applies, PIBG or PTA (English abbreviation) members consist of parents and teachers. In this association both the parents and teachers stand together at the same height. No one is higher than the other.

You can have a PhD or be a corporate leader (or a Datuk, etc) and the teacher can be just a Diploma holder but in a PIBG we are all equal.

Being equal means we have equal voice. Being equal means we don’t look down on others or expect people to look up to you.

It is a place where we can joke, laugh and make fun without prejudice. Being equals means we can sit down and make rational decisions for the benefit and to meet the PIBG objectives.

In many PIBG, there are several maladies that I see. On paper, the committee consists of parents and teachers. In reality the organisation is run by the school i.e. the gurubesar.

The YDP come and do opening ceremonies. The YDP and the Treasurer just sign away monies as requested by the school.

The Committee rarely meets and when they do meet, it is just a matter of formality.

During meeting it is always a one-way communication between the gurubesar and the rest of the committee and the role of the YDP is limited to being the chairperson of that meeting. This is a serious malady. It is cancerous and dangerous. This is wrong.

The PTA/PIBG was first introduced as a self regulatory body where members of the PTA/PIBG use the AGM to determine and regulate its activities. However the Education Regulation provides the power to the Education Department as Registrar whose role is parallel to Registrar of Society.

Over the years, the PIBG has been labeled as a monster by parents, many stayed away as they see the PIBG as unnecessary burden.

Many associate the PIBG as organisation that is reserve to the select few who are mainly parents who are politically connected and having a good relationship with the gurubesar’.

The PTA/PIBG has clear and specific objectives which mainly focused on the school children. Its function and role is clearly defined to focus on children. Nowhere in its charter, it is supposed to do building maintenance, upgrade equipment for the school administrator, pay for operational expenses of a school, replace a light bulb, etc.

Unfortunately many gurubesars and Jabatan Pendidikan Negeri Sabah’s staff sadly do not see PTA/PIBG as an independent body and its independence is important to ensure that the integrity of the organisation is protected.

They use their power and influence in exerting their needs and control the PTA/PIBG. Over time many PTA/PIBG’s become “another department” of the school which is controlled by the gurubesars.

Some gurubesars even prepare a parents and teachers lineup in advance and insist all the teachers to vote this line up. This should not be the case.

If a school gurubesar as the adviser of PIBG nominates someone, obviously all teachers will also vote for that particular candidate so as to please their superior, and in most cases so would parents. In many cases, the selection is a pre-planned affair among teachers. Not all parents who attend the AGM are pleased with this but most of them do not wish to go against the headmaster or the teachers’ choice. Headmaster and teachers should elect only the teacher representative to the PIBG and parents should decide should represent them in the committee

Of course many committee members do not want to rock the boat because they want special privileges from the gurubesars and at the same time they do not wish to be unpopular. Eventually these PTA/PIBG’s become a rubber stamping body on what the school wants to do. It ends up being run by the school.

Who is to be blamed? I put the blame on the parents solely. The reason being, they don’t read the constitution of the PTA/PIBG.

They don’t use their power at AGMs. Many do not turn up for AGMs. Those who turn-up do not ask the right questions. They do not make the appointed committee accountable. Basically they are very blur about the PIBG.

Many parents think that PIBG is just about collecting money and let it the gurubesar decide on what to do with the money. The PTA/PIBG Chairman is to sign cheques as requested by the gurubesar.

This is not true. I have been active observer in PIBG for the past 10 years till I took over the office as the YDP of SRK Sacred Heart from 2010-2014 term. I can tell you that it is fun and addictive. It is very satisfying when you can see a change in a child’s face. You appreciate their smile and joy.

The PIBG’s responsibility is towards the children but not towards the teachers or towards the school building. Maintenance of the school is the responsibility of the government in fully aided schools and the School Board of Management (BOM) in the case of non-fully aided school like SRK Sacred Heart.

I told my gurubesar many times that if the school does not have adequate budget in operating and maintenance expenses, he should seek help from PIBG. We do give money but we would rally support from corporate sector and had proven on many occasions in school events and more recently we secured 40 Chrome notebooks through Jabatan Pendidikan Negeri Sabah to ease the burden of parents of SRK Sacred Heart on Computer class.

We had to end the private company operating Computer classes at the school as it was charging an exorbitant fee of RM 50,000 for 10 months of service provided in a year and was operational for the last 10years.

This company had been operating without paying any rentals or its electricity bills during this 10 year tenure. The PIBG also had to incur payment for wiring, air-condition maintenance and the upkeep of the Computer room.

This company had also charged full fees During school holidays all through the 10-year period of operation. The PIBG had acted without fear or favour when it ended their service though the school administration had wanted it continued.

The PIBG can play very healthy and positive role if the gurubesars do not see the PIBG as an intruder into his turf but as a relevant partner that is important for the development of the children. If he sees criticisms as something that is positive then the PIBG is safe. If he sees a criticism as something that is negative, then the PIBG committees are going to have a tough time as in the case of SRK Sacred Heart.

The PIBG can discuss and set an expectation from parents on students’ performance in areas of sports and academics. It must work constructively with the school to ensure that the set targets are achievable and how the PIBG can help to achieve the targets.

All PIBGs must have a space in school that can be labeled as PIBG room, being is a responsible and legal entity as part of the school community.

As such giving a space for storage, keeping officials document of the PIBG and a place to meet and discuss regularly is necessary. The next thing is to discuss with the gurubesar (school administrator) on what the PIBG can do. See whether it can fit into the school calendar or is it relevant to the context of the children.

As per the Education Regulation, the PIBG finances and the school finances are two separate entities.

They don’t mix. The PIBG manages it own funds. It cannot impose fees but at AGM members can propose and approve provided it is in line with the objective of the PIBG, not burdensome to parents and subject to the Registrar’s approval. The key word here is “in line with the objectives and approval.” The committee is equally powerful if it sees its role as assisting in children’s affairs. Usually the Registrar does not object to any collection imposed by the PIBG. The PIBG role is not to endorse extra charges by the school.

I would like to share with you a healthy PIBG and school relationship in my children’s secondary school. My gurubesar is an old gurubesar. This means he goes back to basic in doing his work. The basic principle is “building” and “the children”.

Every decision he makes is by taking into account the children. He told me once, in managing schools the first thing that needs to be focused upon is the “children” and the second is again children.

We are here to prepare the seeds of the future for the country. He does not forget his core business. He reminds me of some of my own teachers in the 80’s. That is the kind of gurubesar every school in Sabah should strive to become.

The qualities that I see in this gentlemen is grossly lacking in many gurubesars that I have been exposed of late.

The gurubesar being the leader of the school is a respected figure.

We should not fear him but his actions will earn the respect of our children and parents. Though the gurubesar is an advisor of the PIBG he/she plays an important role in providing direction and guidance in where the school and the PIBG can meet.

The role of the gurubesar is already well defined i.e. as an advisor. Many gurubesar do not realised the scope of being an “advisor”. Being an advisor is different from being the head of the PIBG.

The YDP and the committee consult and seek advice from the gurubesar on issues related to regulations and meeting student needs. He does not report to the gurubesar nor does he must toe what the gurubesar says.

They must play their respective role and find a win-win situation that benefits the children.

Both the parents and teachers must play a greater role in the PIBG. Parents and teacher must have the freedom to vote according to the people that they think can run the organisation.

In many cases we see that the teachers are instructed by the gurubesar that they should vote according to instructions of the gurubesar.

The person that is elected is usually a Dato or Datin or a YB or a person that the gurubesar is comfortable with. As mentioned, ranks, titles and your relationship and position with VIP’s are not important.

Members (parents and teachers) must vote according to their free will and they must vote the people who can run the organization and not the person that warms up the chair. People who are elected must show that they are there not for their own children but for all the children or for the needs of special privileges.

The formed committee must work. In this aspect, we mean that it must run programmes as guided by the constitution. Before running any programme it is good that the input from the school is obtained.

Nothing in the law says that the PIBG cannot run any programmes that are not approved by the school. Approval of the school in not necessary but is a matter of courtesy. PIBG can also run programmes outside the school for children.

The basic is, they can do anything under the sun that is in line with their PIBG constitution and not going against the various Education regulations. To run any organisation, be it PIBG or others, the committee members must understand their constitution, their powers and their roles.

A successful committee must work together as a team. It is indeed a very sad state of affairs that most PIBGs are divided.

This happens because certain Committee members want to be in the good books of the gurubesar and hope to get special privileges.

Usually there will be two teams, one that is aligned to the gurubesar and the other that is against. A mature and respectable gurubesar must understand its role of impartiality.

He must not take sides in the committee. He must work with the elected team, whoever they may be. He/She must not divide and rule.

For the best interests of the PIBG, the gurubesar must not get involved in the politicking of the PIBG. The members themselves need to shoulder some blame.

Parents themselves don’t understand what PIBG stands for. It does not understand the purpose and role of the committee.

They should vote the working team and not the team that is being promoted by the gurubesar who shows biasness.

If your gurubesar is aligned to a certain group and does not behave professionally during meetings then you can advice him or her.

If advice doesn’t work then you vote the opposing team during the AGM. That will put the gurubesar in his/her proper place.

Effective financial management is important to any successful organisation. In a NGO like PIBG, there is no need to collect money more than what you can spend.

Some PIBGs are so proud that they manage to collect hundreds of thousands and keep their money in FD. This should not be the case. With proper planning, members do not have to burden parents and its benefits must be extended to the children. PIBG monies must be spent for the benefit of the children.

The finance of the PIBG belongs to the PIBG and not to the school. The school cannot simply decide on how the money is going to be spent. The PIBG committee must decide.

The YDP must play his role. He or she must understand the rules and regulations and lead his team.

Many PIBGs have very weak financial management system in place. There is no documented procedure for application, approval, spending authorities and limits and no proper documented paper trail.

Audit is also equally very weak as in the case of SRK Sacred Heart, when its past auditor reported that the ending balance for 2011 was RM 5,958.49 when the bank statement clearly reflects RM 27,458.49 as ending balance.

To make matters worse sometime in 2013, he also verified that the expenditure payout in cash was in accordance to good accounting practice and had not referred to the bank statement where it clearly indicates that payment in cheques having been made for the Exact expenditure resulting in double payments.

This created a lot of problem for a lot of people. It created a transparency issue. Many of its PIBG committee do not wants to share what was discussed during meetings with its members. They feel, the members do not have rights to the minutes of meeting.

This is wrong, whatever the committee decides it must be made known to all members. There is no need to hide information from members. After all we are all equals.

The Jabatan Pendidikan Negeri Sabah needs to conduct programmes about PIBG to its own PPD officials, gurubesars and the schools PIBG committee, if it is truly sincere in promoting a free and organised PIBG in Sabah.

The objectives of PIBG needs to be realigned to meet the challenge of the 21st century in Malaysia and more importantly in Sabah. The independence of the PIBG is important to ensure that the liberty, integrity and rights of the PIBGs are always protected.

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