Why we should celebrate teachers, our unsung heroes

As we celebrate our heroes this week, I can’t think of anybody more deserving of this accolade than the teachers. It is natural for anybody to think of a hero as the doer of mighty acts; as Joseph of the Bible, Jack Bauer of the movies, or Martin Luther King and Mandela in politics. But how about the minute acts of kindness that go unnoticed? How about those who daily sacrifice their time, energy and wisdom for the better of others? How about those from whose intellectual backbone, nations rise? How about the teachers?

In the words of Debi Mazar, a famous American actress, “A hero is somebody who is selfless, who is generous in spirit, who just tries to give back as much as possible and help people.” In her attempt to define heroes, Mazar could not have defined teachers any better. Teachers are selfless, generous in spirit and are always in the mission of helping others and giving back as much as they possibly can. Well, you could argue that doctors save lives every day and that the army protects us daily and that without X or Y, Rwanda wouldn’t be where it is today… you are right! We can all claim a spot in the light any day; however, I choose to give tribute to my teachers—the habitually neglected heroes.

If anything, Abraham Maslow warns that, “We need not take refuge in supernatural gods to explain our saints and sages and heroes and statesmen, as if to explain our disbelief that mere unaided human beings (like teachers) could be that good or wise.” The future of our world, of Rwanda, is literally in the hands of teachers. They daily shape our brains, emotions and attitudes into what we need to function adequately in this world. Take the teacher out of the equation and we wouldn’t have any lawyer, doctor, pastor…name it. Virtually, everyone in this world is a prodigy of someone—school not restricted to a physical space and teachers not limited to formal school teachers, but also our parents, siblings, neighbors; anybody who taught you something formally or informally.

Despite their low pay and general under appreciation, teachers still work extremely hard, always giving their best to the job. Imagine a primary school teacher earning Rwf40, 000 monthly but teaching 37 periods a week with God knows how many students per lesson. It is a consensus that a teacher’s job extends way beyond the eight hours a day, which other professions enjoy. Would this really be worth waking up so early every morning, carrying work home so you barely have time to sleep and empathetically imparting knowledge to the students using all the creative instructional methodology learnt from teacher conferences attended, when you should have been resting from all that?

Teachers equally have an unimaginable level of patience that we do not find even in religion. Reflect on all the episodes you have heard with your teachers, formal or informal, and think of a time when you felt you had hit the wall but your teacher reassuringly brought you back on track. Most of us today are where we are not because of the curriculum dictates that were creatively demystified in class, but for the reason that out of all the hullabaloos of school and inconsequential bantering, a teacher took two minutes off his/her busy schedule to have a heart-to-heart conversation with us about what we were going through. Somewhere down the line, we had ‘the talk’ that changed our lives.

When all is said and done, we have so many heroes around us whose praises we should sing. However, today I choose to give a standing ovation to all the teachers for the sacrifices they make, for the love and care they show, for their inspirational voices when doom looms, for their commitment to service, despite their personal struggles and the audacious lack of appreciation from the stakeholders.