Wednesday, 21 October

The recent story with the cake and pupil’s bullying in Kharkiv again raised the question of whether there is a need in parental committees. Some people support it, the others recall the times of bringing “parents’contribution” to school. Opinion found out whether there is a need for the existence of such associations, whether PC has any powers to prevent the repetition of Kharkiv’s story, and where these committees came from.

Is there a need for parents’ committees?

Батьківські комітети розбрату: «інструмент» для збору грошей чи необхідний елемент шкільної роботи?

Iryna Romanenko, the head of the “Open Ukraine” non-formal education project, is convinced that there is no clear answer to this question since sometimes parents’ committees (hereafter “PC”) carry out the work that anyone else can do. However, the expert adds that the issue of transparency of PC’s work and communication within the parent community of both class and school is still relevant today.

“The question of whether we need PC in school is philosophical, on the one hand, they have an important financial and organizational function, which is currently can be performed in the system of school formal education by no one except for the PC, and on the other hand – the authority which PC takes upon itself, sometimes, is not shared among the vast majority of parents in the class.

Of course, this issue is currently central, firstly, the transparency of PC’s work, since committees often carry out small managerial decisions of the school headmaster or serve as an additional leverage on students through their parents. Not all PCs are ready for transparent work as such an important body in the education system. Secondly, for the effective functioning of PC in the system of school education, it is necessary to look at the effective practices that already exist, and implement the best practices in our schools. As well the main task is to establish transparency and harmonic communication within the parent community (both class and school). Nevertheless, parents should be included in the educational process “, Iryna Romanenko is sure.

Батьківські комітети розбрату: «інструмент» для збору грошей чи необхідний елемент шкільної роботи?

Maryna Bahrova, a member of the board of international union “Institute of National Policy” also joined the discussion. She is convinced, that PC plays a significant role in the work of educational institutions, however, the work itself and its quality depends directly on parents.

“The Parents’ Committee plays an important role in creating the image of an educational institution, providing transparency to all material and technical issues related to the arrangement of an educational institution. The Parents’ Committee grants parents the right to reorganize the educational process. An activity of the parent committee as a whole is aimed at creating favorable conditions for students to get quality knowledge.

The work of parents’ committees depends mostly on parents themselves. As a rule, in those parents’ committees with competent, indifferent and persistent parents, problems with the educational and material and technical process do not arise”, Maryna Bahrova added.

Батьківські комітети розбрату: «інструмент» для збору грошей чи необхідний елемент шкільної роботи?

Vitalii Furmaniuk, the head of the public organization “Fundamentals of the consciousness “, instead,  in his commentary to Opinion, said that the form in which committees exist today is completely unnecessary. Today PC can act only as a parent initiative, based on the law on public associations. As an example of such work the specialist names trade union organizations.

“The existence of PC in this form, for now, is both unnecessary and impossible. The Ministry of Education of Ukraine in the “Model Regulations on Parent Committees (Councils) of General Educational Institutions” wrote that PC is guided in its work by the Law of Ukraine on Citizens’ Associations (now it is the Law on Public Associations).  According to the legislation, school has no relation to the creation of a parents’ committees, this should be solely the parents’ initiative. And these Parents’ Organizations can only act on the basis of Law on Public Associations, that is, to register, hold a meeting, have a statute and written powers. But this doesn’t mean that all parents automatically become members of such an organization. On the territory of the school there are still trade union organizations (which are also public associations), but for some reason, nobody writes, that the school decides on the establishment of trade unions. The decision is made solely by the staff of the institution,” Vitalii Furmaniuk said.

Do lawyers agree?

Батьківські комітети розбрату: «інструмент» для збору грошей чи необхідний елемент шкільної роботи?

Dmytro Bohuslavskyi, a lawyer, confirmed that nobody can prevent the unification of like-minded- parents, but stressed that such, even registered, communities don’t have any status confirmed by state authorities.

“The fundamental point worth of paying attention. No one prevents people from uniting on any grounds. And within such an association, decisions of the association itself are obligatory. Similarly, parents can join together. Another thing is that with the abolition of the order to approve the position regarding the parent committee, such an association does not have any status, confirmed by the state authorities.

Can parents get together and decide what to give to children for the New Year? Of course. Is the decision of such meetings mandatory for those, who are not a member of it? No. Can some actions of teachers (or inactivity) directed at students be based on decisions of such meetings? No. To wit: you can hold a meeting, decide to buy a cake, get children together out of school and there they will get this cake. But it is impossible for this “distribution” to be carried out at school, especially by teachers, and especially during the educational process, when the child was not able to participate in this distribution,” Dmytro Bohuslavskyi explained.

How did PC appear and why they are still considered relevant?

Батьківські комітети розбрату: «інструмент» для збору грошей чи необхідний елемент шкільної роботи?

Iryna Romanenko, in her commentary, noted that the commencement of such committees had begun since Soviet times. However, back then the PC did not have such an effect on the work of the school. But in independent Ukraine, the weight of committees has considerably expanded, since they obtained a number of functions, the most resonant of which was the fundraising.

“The beginning of PC activity was in Soviet private schools, and the PC didn’t have a particular impact on the work of the school. Over time, the influence of PC in independent schools of Ukraine has substantially expanded, due to the fact that they are assigned organizational functions for organizing extracurricular activities: excursions and additional classes, competitions, solving everyday issues; financial – fundraising. And the very last function – the raising of funds, causes a significant resonance in the general understanding of PC work. Bringing the work of committees to the transparency will facilitate understanding of their work and the need for such a body,” Romanenko said.

Батьківські комітети розбрату: «інструмент» для збору грошей чи необхідний елемент шкільної роботи?

Vitalii Furmaniuk stresses, that PC has appeared in order to transfer responsibility for a number of illegal decisions from potentially responsible people to parents, who sometimes may even believe in the purity of exaction of “charitable” contributions. However, Furmaniuk agrees, that the basis of PC’s work is precisely the economic issue.

“PC appeared as an element of transferring responsibility for illegal decisions from the administrations of educational institutions to parents. Parents who don’t know the law, are told, that PC can do everything and even demand “charitable” contributions from other parents. If you remove the function of raising money from PC, then they will no longer be needed. Because parents do not need PC to organize an excursion for children,” shared with us the expert.

How to avoid situations like “Kharkiv cake” in the future and protect the child from bullying?

Батьківські комітети розбрату: «інструмент» для збору грошей чи необхідний елемент шкільної роботи?

Psychologist Oksana Palun is convinced that the situation with cake in Kharkiv has gone over the edge, and that, presumably, was formed not for one month, but nobody tried to prevent it.

“Bullying is a way of asserting oneself when a person lacks recognition in life, and he or she doesn’t know how to get that recognition. Then such tools are used. How to avoid this? Here everyone chooses his own way: someone is trying to “be friends” with an aggressor, someone just does what he says, in order not to make the situation even worse, and someone takes a role of crusader for justice and fights.”

In the situation with the “cake” conflict clearly gone over the edge and was forming not for one month. However, nobody thought about it and didn’t say “What are you sharing now?” In any team, if the parties to the conflict cannot agree, someone who can understand the situation focuses on the main thing and helps to resolve the conflict. Before it reaches all possible limits someone should intervene. In an ideal scenario, this should be a school psychologist, but not every school has one, and if there is such a position, then this is not always a professional who can really help “, the psychologist summed up.

Батьківські комітети розбрату: «інструмент» для збору грошей чи необхідний елемент шкільної роботи?

However, Kyrylo Popov, a public commentator, believes that now it is necessary to do as much effort as possible to clarify information about the rights of parents and the responsibilities of communal educational institutions. At the same time, it is necessary to attract more attention to the selection of new faces of headmasters in order to change those, who have frozen the existing state of affairs.

“Further joint efforts of the profile ministry, the mass media, and public organizations are needed for constant explanatory information on the rights of parents and the duties of schools as communal educational institutions in the issues of cash flow. We need to cover timely further situations similar to Kharkiv in order to receive a proper society’s reaction. It should be followed by an understanding that just to give money, if there really is such a desire, to nursing charity funds, is not enough, it is also important to monitor and control its further movement.

Of course, it is necessary to attract more attention to the possibility of the objective selection of new faces for headmaster’s position in educational institutions, instead of those who have occupied and consolidated at their places for many years and froze the existing state of affairs in the field of primary and secondary education. This is most likely to become possible after the enactment of the law “On Comprehensive General Secondary Education,” which is now undergoing the necessary stages of drafting,” Kyrylo Popov said.

By Dmytro Zhuravel

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