Teachers are now sharpening their pens to go back to classroom as schools resume their normal business. They must be armed to the tooth now, after going under a thorough life skills course that some people would prefer to call Ingando or more precisely Itorero. We call them life skills because what is given in Itorero, embraces life skills holistically.
A proposition to send teachers to train in life skills must have been made after a number of teachers were identified to be ingraining genocide ideologies in school children. The situation posed a great set- back as far as the efforts of unity and reconciliation are concerned. It was generally jeopardising all efforts put in place to heal the Rwandan society. Teachers have a lot to play in the unity of any society and more importantly in a post genocide society, like Rwanda. It is so absurd therefore, to find them involved in subversive activities that can endanger the whole society.
The ideology that was being propagated in primary and secondary schools cannot be tolerated by any sane community. It is dangerous to poison young people because as the common saying goes, you destroy the future of the whole society. No body therefore could tolerate what was going on in some schools.
But what is so interesting is that teachers now, like newly baptised Christians, have vowed to desist from any other form of subversive activities in general and more particularly, from inculcating genocide ideology in the children of Rwanda. We cannot therefore over emphasise the importance of giving them a ‘thumbs up sign’ in appreciation.
They are going now, to be the teachers, that the Rwandan society needs in its social, economic and political moves.
Teachers however, still face some long term socio- economic hardships that are known to all people in the society including their own students or pupils. Nonetheless, like in other developing countries, there are some encouraging steps taken by the government of Rwanda. Salaries of secondary school teachers were raised for example, and most of them must be relatively happy today.
Though the money is still no enough, the fact that the government started a teachers’ bank (which will be offering them soft loans for constructing houses is encouraging).
So many people have been ignorantly claiming that teachers are the lowest paid civil servants. The claim is thus wrong as teachers are getting better and better each year, and unless the trend is not maintained, we shall see people coming back to the profession.
Teachers should actually get it right that they are more privileged to work within an environment that does not corrupt their minds. Teachers have no access to bribes and that is why (may be), they are always innocent and with clean hands. You will never find a teacher in court charged of corruption. Neither a parent nor a student can give teachers money. A teacher’s work is to go to class room and teach. And on top of teaching, they are supposed to create an environment in school that helps students/pupils grow up right, morally. This is where the challenge comes in. Money is supposed to be secondary, which is why a teacher’s work is regarded as a complex and noble work. Complex because it calls one to be more of a parent, and noble because it does not pay a lot and yet it is a society’s backbone.
From the above context therefore, we cannot fail to assert that not everybody can be a teacher. Only the special ones remain ‘good teachers’. Furthermore, a teacher must be ‘relevant’ in whatever he/she does in the school environment and the community at large. You need to have your country at heart and be guided by societal norms and morals, as you engage in the noble cause.
Teaching profession goes wrong when it becomes money oriented and fails to address societal issues. We need to understand properly for instance, what quality education means in our society.
Quality Education cannot be seen in one perception; that one has the capacity for example to explain; Newton’s law of motion, that one has the capacity to install computer programs, etc. It must be giving Rwandans values that any post genocide society would need. Rwandan education (especially at lower levels), must be able to instil in children, values that permit them to unite and live in harmony above all things. We are actually building the society newly after all the ills it faced. Deciding to do the contrary like ‘teaching and preaching’ genocide ideology is incomprehensible. But since it lives, we are challenged to fight it with all our might. It is actually all about self destruction that is not new to humanity. Take the example of conflicts in the Middle East; they do not die down simply because they are passed from one generation to another. Rwanda cannot borrow this idea and in any case it does not fit into our context.
The vow must go with critical thinking
The ‘newly born again’ teachers, must be able to critically analyze the ideologies, values, and interests that inform their role as teachers and the cultural politics they promote in the classroom. All of their actions presuppose some notion of what it means to be a citizen and a future society and to the degree that schools are actively engaged in the production of discourses that provide others with a sense of identity, community, and possibility, they must be responsible and reflective about their actions.
They must be able to analyze their relationship with the larger society in order to critically apprehend themselves as social agents capable of recognizing how they might be complicit with forms of hatred and genocide ideology. But they must also have a language of possibility, one that allows them to think in terms of the not yet, to critically imagine social relations.
Teachers are not meant to be poor
I highly concur with some government officials who believe that teachers are not necessarily meant to be poor. The unfortunate ‘inheritance’ teachers get from their predecessors that a teacher is supposed to live and die poor, is the big undoing of all teachers. According to the law of common sense and simple economics, for there to be production, only three factors come in play; that is land, capital and labour. Teachers have labour (themselves actually are a skilled labour), little capital that can be substantiated by a soft loan from the ‘teachers bank’ and the same bank can provide land so as to complete what it takes to be in full swing production process.
It is true again that, teachers are so dynamic and their dynamism can be seen in their capacity to work in different fields. Teachers have made good presidents, ministers, entrepreneurs, bank managers, big business men /women to but a few.
Naivety and conservatism in the old teachers should not hold any teacher of our generation a hostage. Teachers can be what they wish to be like any other person. It is all about being focused and determined. You can be rich or poor depending on how you decide to go through life. Do not therefore, risk teaching the ideology of hatred as it is a completely wrong choice of life for a teacher. There are numerous options of life at your disposal.