Yesterday I learnt a new Kinyarwanda proverb, ‘Ukurusha umugore aba akurusha urugo.’ This, I was told, means that ‘he who has a better wife than you, has a better home than you’. By extension, a good wife must go through the hands of a good teacher. Never mind whether the good teacher is a mother, a father or a mentor. The bottom line is that the teacher’s role is paramount. The best teachers are the most motivated.
The turn of events in the teaching profession in the last decades and the last two weeks in particular aroused my interest and prompted me to critically examine some of the inherent issues that dog the teaching profession.
Within the strands of perception, a good wife analogy can blend well with what we may arguably call a good teacher. To others, a good teacher is one who students like while to others it is one who produces the best grades in sciences because the world has gone digital.
The transformation from a good teacher to a poor one can be instantaneous subject to the prevailing conditions. In my view, a good teacher is made after professional training.
What then make the difference between a good and a bad teacher now that all teachers are trained with the same curriculum and instructors? Have you heard of teachers who perform very well in their early years in the profession and go on deteriorating with each passing day? Do you wonder why a big percentage of industrial actions in the world are in the teaching profession?
The ongoing spate of strikes by teachers in Kenya right from primary to university underscores the plight of the grandeur profession that is jejune to many. A qualified teacher who leaves the teaching profession and joins the civil service earns almost two times what a counterpart in class earns.
The disparity in the remuneration of teachers is by and large to blame for the deteriorating standards of education in public schools and the mass exodus of teachers from the teaching profession. As an insider, I can accurately tell that a big percentage of those who are still teaching are mark timing, just waiting in the wings for the next available opportunity to quit teaching. While I do not have the statistics, I can also postulate that several teachers the world over quit teaching every day.
The risks involved in teaching are only second to those in mining. Teachers risk retaliation from errant students as a result of correctional disciplinary measures that they use in schools. In the developed world, several teachers have succumbed to bullets sprayed at them by berserk students.
While entrepreneurs associate high risk to higher returns teachers associate it with massive loss. Perhaps this explains why very few teachers are in business. I tried to use Google to find any renowned entrepreneur with a teaching profession background but got tired on the way. There was none in the first few thousands entries.
The teaching profession is synonymous with misery and desperation. It is always treated as a subsidiary line of profession, a reason why it is an object of the darts of social prejudice.
Many teachers have low self esteem. They treat their work as they are treated. We can’t expect much from them if the subservient social and moral stamp on their backs is indelible.
The face of teaching has to be changed. One step towards that is paying them well to improve their self and society image. Money is not the only way through which workers can be motivated but it is the centre bolt of all the motivation efforts. Call it the mother of motivation.