What is the role of a teacher in career building?

Ange Thaina Ndizeye didn’t realise how well she was doing in English until one of her teachers pointed it out.

Being a French-speaking student in high school, she had very little interest in the subject. According to her, it was not easy and all her efforts didn’t seem good enough.

 “There was a particular teacher who saw something special in me, and took me through what I was supposed to do with patience. Eventually, I started loving the subject and my grades improved immensely,” she says.

Now a former student, she is a mentor at the school, focusing mostly on helping students who find difficulty in some subjects, like languages, gain a new perspective.

Inviting former students, role models, or employers to talk to the class can help with career guidance. Net photo.

Career discovery is an important topic that can be covered by teachers as well as school career advisers. Teachers can also help learners to think about their futures and find their career path.

Education experts believe that for learners to identify what they are good at, the role of teachers should not be taken lightly as they are important adult role models for them.

They say it is important to know the weakness and strength of each student in order to help them reach their full potential.

How should it be done?

Ndizeye, also the executive secretary of Unitia Foundation, an organisation that aims at connecting the youth to resources and skills to reach their full potential, says as educators, when it comes to career guidance, getting to know learners as individuals is important as they all have different personalities and levels of understanding.

She says that each student should be considered ‘special’ with their own capacities. In doing so, it will help teachers understand their students well, and be in a better position to guide them accordingly.

However, Ndizeye says, teachers should understand that weakness doesn’t necessarily mean that a student doesn’t understand or know anything when it comes to a certain subject or topic.

 “Teachers should pay attention to their students, and look out for any disturbance or issues. Encouraging them to open up is important, particularly if a teacher has noticed something odd, or knows something about the student that could be affecting him/her,” she says.

She adds that teachers need to know that students’ performance is affected when they are going through a hard time. It could be family wrangles or the sickness/death of a love one that affects their concentration.

This, she says, can make it hard for a student to care about what they are good at, or how to pursue it further. They can even get dispirited about future goals in general.

Faustin Mutabazi, the chief executive officer of Education Consultancy Bureau in Remera, says that different things and issues in a student’s life make it hard to focus, especially if they don’t have a good mentor.

He says that being a mentor means spending ample time with them and learning more about them. It’s easy to provide the help that is needed if teachers show genuine concern.

He notes that because teachers spend more time with students, they are in a better position to help them when it comes to identifying what they want to pursue in the future.

 “They should be there to encourage and advise them, especially where they do not understand. Also, tell them (students) where they are better suited, if they have difficulty making decisions,” he says.

What to avoid

Ndizeye says as a student, what stirs rebellion most is forcing them to do things they are not comfortable with. This includes comparing them to others who are doing well in certain areas.

She says this lowers a student’s self-esteem and in most cases, makes them reluctant about everything. And this is a serious hindrance to their education and overall health.

She says that instead, teachers should work on building students’ confidence—a very important aspect that will guarantee better results.

She says many people think that career guidance is about pushing students to take on certain careers, like being doctors or pilots.

She notes that it’s about what they (students) are passionate about and guiding them towards achieving their goals, with academic success. What is required of a teacher is patience and continuous follow-up on students without pushing them to visualise their lives in 10 years.

 “Focusing on how best they do at the moment is more important. Teachers have the power to mould students into great adults,” she says.

When is the right time?

Diogene Twagirayezu, a teacher at G.S Karama High School, Nyanza District in Southern Province, says helping learners identify what they are good at and helping them pursue it should start as early as possible.

According to him, primary level is a good start. He explains that this is the level where they start learning more about themselves and discovering their abilities.

He says that secondary and primary level learners face different challenges, and it’s up to teachers to know the kind of help each student needs.

He says teachers shouldn’t assume that they know what is good for all students; they should listen to them, and ask them what they really want or are interested in, as opposed to making general decisions for them all.

 “Educators shouldn’t get comfortable or think they know everything because every child is different, thus, they require separate attention and approach,” Twagirayezu says.

The future

Frank Rubaduka, the founder and chief executive officer of All Trust Consult, says that this knowledge-based world requires people to not be workers, but creative thinkers and problem solvers.

He says students should be prepared and capacitated to face the challenges that they might come across in the future.

Rubaduka says today’s world continuously evolves. For instance, recent research from World Bank indicates that many of the skills people have these days will be irrelevant two decades from now.

 “Career guidance in this era is a challenge. This is because of the changing job market,” he says.

His perspective is that career guidance should not be based on hard skills, like it used to be in the past.

For instance, Rubaduka says, the idea of encouraging learners to study a specific combination of subjects, or encouraging them to join certain schools is outdated.

 “Career guidance should be more of self-will and motivation,” he says.

He says social skills such as problem-solving and teamwork, to mention a few, are to be considered. 

Rubaduka adds that the fundamentals of technology are required—anything less will be irrelevant in the future because of the developing digital world. This should be at the centre of career guidance.

Teachers and parents do not know what the job market will be like in 10 years. Therefore, guide students fittingly, he adds.

“Career guidance should be learner-centred with individual strengths considered, not dictating what they should learn,” Rubaduka says.

Their views

Fridah Manishimwe, Teacher

Parents should have an important role in helping learners choose the right career. They should support them in what they decide to do and not convince them to go for what they think is better as parents.

Emmanuel Twahirwa, Parent

Educators should listen to what learners want and be there to guide them. They (teachers) should also look into their (students) choices to see if what they have chosen matches their strengths and abilities.

Delphine Umuhoza, Student

Schools need to provide mentors. In fact, they should be there at all times to help guide students who are indecisive about what they want to pursue in the future. They should provide as much help as possible regarding their chosen career paths.

Jerome Niyonzima, S3 student

I think there is need for parents to support their children, especially when it comes to financial assistance for what a student has chosen to pursue. It could be buying the essential materials needed, among other things.