Debates on education reforms and improving the quality of education have generally failed to recognise the pivotal role of teachers. In particular, the key issues of teacher motivation are skimmed over and ignored altogether.
Teachers in Sub-Saharan Africa are being asked to change radically teaching practices at a time when majority of them are increasingly de-motivated. Top-down policy formulation and implementation with limited teacher participation exacerbates the teacher de-motivational levels which in most cases leads to psychologically disengagement of the teaching efforts and hence exercise silent resistance against the reforms.
It is indeed crucial for all political systems in Africa, to comprehend that a Teacher and a Soldier play a very central role in guaranteeing security in society and both deserve the best and similar welfare provisions. It’s easier to win a battle than winning a war. Soldiers fight battles to vanquish a physical enemy but teachers fight a perennial war against ignorance and destructive ideology and inculcating good values, wisdom and necessary competencies for national building. It is worthwhile to say, the legacy of a teacher is far reaching and if, by virtue of his role, not cared for, can be the deadliest strategically positioned professional.
The quality of any school system rests on the quality of its teachers but most of educational initiatives target only infrastructure and students. Best school systems such as Australia, Finland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and South Korea invest more in building a teacher in terms of: (1) Selecting best performers into teacher training. (2) Developing them into effective instructors; and (3) Ensuring effective school system for better educational outcomes.
The prosaic economic value of a teacher is that he highly impacts on student’s achievement which provides a direct measure of later quality of the labor force, which is strongly related to economic growth, leading to higher levels of national income. This is the reason we need to rethink about the quality of individuals who enroll for education course and raise their worth.
Rwanda, the top African country that registered significant progress in achieving MDGs in 2015; with Net primary enrolment increasing from 86.6% to 96.5 % with completion rate increasing from 51.7% to 78.6% still requires a deliberately affirmative action towards the quality of its teachers as a precursor to drive the economy to knowledge based and produce a workforce that will favorably compete in the regional labor market.
Pragmatically, salary increment is bound to be unrelated to increase in teacher effectiveness although paradoxically teachers’ unions resist a focus on teacher quality for salary increment; Teacher welfare concerns need to be very urgently addressed. Strategies such as more effective recruitment, payment, evaluation and retention strategy for teachers to enable identification of more effective and ineffective teachers on which basis promotions and demotions could be done; provision of periodical in-service trainings.
Refresher courses on different aspects of teaching, teacher professional development schemes, housing loan schemes, recognition in terms of certification and dignity in society; Teacher feeding programme and staff on-school accommodation to facilitate teacher transfers would ameliorate teachers’ self-esteem which is very key in enhancing classroom instruction. Motivation is most precarious when people are confronted by pressures to act on something that is not of particular interest to them. Consequently, until teachers retain a sense of agency about why and how they might teach differently, the call for new approaches and innovations will likely ring hollow.
Obilan Abubakar is the director, Okobi International Learning and Development Center, Kigali Rwanda.