STUDENTS around the country resumed school for the second term of the academic year this week. On Monday I was at Nyabugogo main taxi park and watched as students struggled to board buses back to school.
While there I noticed that many students still stubbornly start their trips back to school rather late. In the process they find themselves competing for the same buses that are on high demand during the rush hour thanks to the scores of people returning from work.
On several occasions I have talked about the reluctance of students to report to school early and how this gravely affects their academic performance. They miss the first lessons and then spend a lot of time copying notes they missed instead of studying with the rest. But anyway I had an interesting conversation with a teacher and so today I will spare the students and say something about teachers.
It is a fact that teaching is no piece of cake. As a teacher I can confess that spending a whole day on your feet, explaining concepts to different students with different levels of understanding is never a smooth ride.
Many a time you are expected to leave your temper outside the school gate and walk into the school as a teacher, counsellor, brother, father and other roles that may be required of you. The day does not really ever end as you have to prepare for the next day’s lessons or to mark lots of students’ homework.
For that and other reasons when students break off for their holidays, teachers breathe a sigh of relief. So the other day I was having lunch with a teacher who was telling me that during an end of year staff meeting some teachers were complaining that their pay is little and that if nothing is done they will not come back to teach.
My friend’s rather bold response to these whining teachers was, “yes, please do not come back if you are not happy with the pay after all you always show up late and leave before time yet the students are always in school.”
According to my friend, some teachers arrive very late to school on a daily basis and leave the school the moment they receive ‘an important’ phone call from a friend or relative. They then turn around and complain about little pay while ignoring the little work they put in.
With the schools’ reopening, some teachers are known to extend their holiday break especially if they are foreign teachers. One will spend an extra week in Kampala or Nairobi as students are left to wonder whether their teacher will be back to teach them.
According to my friend, these teachers do not have the right to even begin talking about improved pay before they can put in their due teaching hours. They should instead carry through with their threat and stay at home. And I totally agree with her.
It is a fact that teachers worldwide are paid peanuts compared to the amount of work they do and its importance. However, there is also a problem of teachers cheating their students by not putting in their due time. And when given a forum to speak they are only concerned about their pay.
School heads and school inspectors must tackle absenteeism in schools. The issue of better pay should never be divorced from the problem of teacher absenteeism. Teachers should ask for better pay for their services only after giving those services diligently.
Students should also not just sit back and enjoy the ‘free time’ but instead demand to be taught for they have paid for the service. Student leaders should be empowered to demand to be taught if it is time for lessons. Lazy teachers don’t belong in our schools.