Teachers should be equipped with entrepreneurial skills

There are some obvious realities in this world, some of which are natural and others have been coined over time. For example it’s obvious and natural that the sun rises from east and sets in the west, it’s also natural that all living things are born, they grow and die! Far away from natural science, it’s obvious and structured that teachers world over are among the least paid civil servants.
Stephen Mugisha
Stephen Mugisha

There are some obvious realities in this world, some of which are natural and others have been coined over time. For example it’s obvious and natural that the sun rises from east and sets in the west, it’s also natural that all living things are born, they grow and die! Far away from natural science, it’s obvious and structured that teachers world over are among the least paid civil servants.

Reasons for teachers’ poor pay may differ from country to country, but one of the common denominator is that teachers are many and increasing their salaries would suffocate the economy. Whereas this reality may be true, but more often it does not always convince my colleagues in the noble profession as they used to call it during our college days.

In most cases teachers see themselves as professionals, who are less regarded in society, see themselves as professionals who mostly focus on survival only. As such those who find alternatives will quickly quit the profession, as the common saying goes “those who can do, those who can’t teach!”

Due to ever running battles and unending teacher strikes like the ones that paralyzed most countries in East African Community of recent, some of the responsive governments came up with alternative solutions to increase teachers’ welfare- from providing free accommodation, providing affordable houses, accessing subsidised medical care and setting up teachers’ SACCOs to provide teachers with soft loans at the lowest interest rates.

In my thinking, among all the incentives available, teachers SACCO seem to be a more viable solution because it would in the long run provide teachers with more financial freedom and emancipate them from economic hardships. There is unwritten and misleading belief that once a teacher improves their economic status, the next step would be quitting the profession! Whereas this may be the case in the current setting, but the underlying cause may be that more often there are no economic incentives to keep the teachers in their profession.

Another dilemma that teachers face is that they are always caught between being role models to their students- here the role model should be holistic to include behavior, discipline and economic status among others.

But in reality, the concept of teachers being viewed as role models tends to be limited to discipline and behavior only. As a teacher, one of my passions is to motivate students (as a matter of fact most teachers do).

One of the biggest professional challenges I met is when one of the stubborn students in my class wrote this statement which I found on the chalkboard as I was getting in class to teach. I quote “Teachers, teachers, there is something wrong with teachers.

 They tell us to do things they have failed to do, they want us to become doctors, engineers when they are not, they want us to be more successful where they have failed. They pretend to love us more than they love themselves as if they are Jesus!”

Partly this is what streams in the young minds of our students to whom we act as role models. Back to the relationship between the improved financial status of teachers and the possible resultant impact on the profession.

Contrary to the mythical belief that once a teacher improves his/her economic status they would quit the profession, my view is that instead it would be the best way to retain teachers in their profession. The long term benefit of teachers’ motivation and confidence would be improved and better quality of education standards.

Once teachers are equipped with entrepreneurial and business skills they would use the accessed loans efficiently and effectively for personal development. This in turn would motivate teachers and encourage professional retention. There are some activities that even would sharpen and improve teachers’ professional skills and at the same time improve their earnings.

Writing books and earn royalty is one among many! I know a teacher in this region who earns an equivalent of over five million francs in royalty, annually and he has not quit teaching, this means expanded income routes! Teacher SACCOs are doing a good job by helping teachers’ access soft loans.

But this must be followed by rigorous and intensive trainings to help teachers and equip them with entrepreneurial skills, business development plans as well as financial management and prudence skills.

The writer is an educationist, author and publisher.

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