This year’s celebrations of teachers’ day, usually done on the 5th of October, will assume a more serious tone than its usual celebratory ambience, not because there is nothing to celebrate but because of the glaring loopholes in our education system that must be corrected for a better future. Against this background, this year’s theme: “Valuing Teachers, Improving Their Status” could not be timelier.
Although most teachers in Rwanda are well trained, highly skilled, and hugely influential to a society’s future, neither of these factors results in them being powerful, famous or rich. Instead, they are the poorest, most overworked (large classes and overloads), most stressed and even worse, the most scorned. Lest we forget, this reflects negatively on the quality of education. It is high time we revisited the virtues of value and empowerment as we celebrate our heroic teachers and restructure our system to empower them.
It is about time we faced the elephant in the room: what does it mean to value teachers? What can we do to improve the reprehensible status of most of our teachers? Simple- by supporting qualified teachers, promoting their profession and upgrading their status to reflect their role in building human capital. It should include a sizable salary at the end of the month and timely promotions. It should be about empowering them to deliver adequately in the classrooms as well as availing needed materials. It surely must involve supporting new teachers in building careers as well as financing those who wish to upgrade or even join the profession. It is about providing regular professional growth and promoting the quality of teacher training as well. It is about doing everything possible to promote quality.
This, precisely, means a dramatic overhaul of how we recruit, prepare, induct and retain good teachers. Teacher trainers must up their game in equipping teachers with appropriate skills for the classroom, but at the same time, schools must design proper induction methods to onboard them into the system and provide professional development seminars to keep them growing. While at it, we may also consider instituting new distance learning models to give teachers more opportunities to be better teachers, instructors, professors, tutors and learning coordinators- the people whose daily work in kindergartens, primary schools, high schools and academic institutions all over the world is founded on great rigor, hard work, patience and dedication to bring out the best in learners.
While it is a fact that teachers are fundamental for equitable and quality education, and as such, must be adequately trained, recruited and remunerated, motivated and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems, the implementation process of all these is not a piece of cake. The process requires fundamental rethinking and restructuring of the relationships between the teachers and higher education communities that train them, as well as what the government is willing to expend on teachers. It also will require elemental revamping of teaching as a profession which, I might add, is not just about substantially increasing the supply of qualified teachers but also motivating them by valuing their work.
This year’s World Teacher’s Day is a reminder that we should continue our fight to ensure that all can truly learn more and teach better. It is with this in mind that I send out my heartfelt congratulations to teachers all over the world.
The writer is a Language Consultant