Michael Kabugo is a high school history teacher who juggles two jobs. He works day and night to afford taking care of his family. He said he had to take on another job because he couldn’t solely survive on his teaching salary.
Teachers’ salaries have been a global outcry not only in developing economies but also with the developed ones. To date, it remains unclear why this noble profession is underrated yet it is at the forefront of nurturing talent and human resource development.
Many teachers have shown their distress on this matter and have continued to remind those in charge to reconsider in regards to this issue. Teachers in Fairfax County, Virginia, in the United States once wore jeans to work to protest their low pay.
It should be noted however that before World War II the teaching profession was treasured, it was a privilege to be a teacher and everyone aspired to become one. Moreover that period shaped the most intelligent students who came to be the foundation for contemporary growth especially in science and technology across all divides.
Teachers were highly regarded, highly paid and highly respected. This is why the best and brightest students wanted to be teachers. Is this still the same? Well, I guess not, given the present experiences. Very few want to be part of this profession because no one wants to be poor.
But I commend the Government of Rwanda in this regard where senators took the initiative to seek an increment on teachers’ salaries by 10%. This indeed showed that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
This move continues to highlight Rwanda’s commitment to build a vibrant economy with quality education at the centre of this commitment. Indeed a nation’s pride is not entirely defined by the might of its economy but the greatness of its people’s ideas.
Our teachers aren’t the best paid but they have remained committed to building the country’s human resources through selling off their hard earned knowledge. The way Rwanda handles its matters is different, that’s why its story will continue to puzzle the rest of the world.
Rwanda’s step towards teachers’ salary increment was long overdue because when we underrate such a profession, we indirectly devalue it for the next generation hence limiting chances of having more bright educators.
Teachers seeking other jobs to supplement their income will ultimately affect their devotion or the required attention to their students. In the same way, the gifted students who would choose the teaching profession can instead opt out basing on the prevailing unattractive circumstances.
Teachers should struggle less financially so that they can focus on their critical work in the classroom. When we get the best and the brightest in this profession again, our students will be able to compete with the rest of the world.
The writer is a PhD student at Beijing Normal University