By now it is quite clear that the president sparked off a hot but necessary debate when he talked of the despicable education standards of this country while addressing students of the National University of Rwanda recently.
The president clearly pointed out that the problem was the education system and the teachers.
In the ensuing discussions on this topic some commentators have appeared to be blaming the system and in some cases giving the impression that teachers are not really part of the problem but simply victims of the system.
The common arguments have been rotating around the absence of a reading culture, unruly students, absence of books and laboratory materials.
The issue of teachers is another that deserves to be looked at with a keen eye since it seems to hold a lot of sway when it comes to the quality of education in this country.
It may sound stale when I point out the fact that teachers feature almost at the bottom of the food chain as far as salaries are concerned.
Interestingly, teachers in most African countries are beginning to get used to these low salaries that often increase only when elections are around the corner.
I am not going to delve into how much money could be enough for us but the impact of the low wages to the system.
The low wages lead to a high teacher turnover as many who join the profession only serve for a short while as they wait to move to something better.
A simple survey will show you that most of the graduates of Kigali Institute of Education have ended up in NGOs, the media, government institutions and the business sector.
The teaching profession is then left for those not qualified to teach but are willing to take the modest pay that teachers get.
This is further compounded by the employment policies of most NGOs and companies where the first requirement is always, “Applicant must be a Rwandan by nationality.”
At the end of the day, the qualified Rwandan teachers will take up jobs in the NGOs and the private sector leaving the teaching profession to foreigners from D.R. Congo, Uganda and Kenya (many of whom are not qualified either).
Teachers are also not offered adequate fringe benefits to enable them stay at the job long enough.
It is hard to find a school that offers its teachers accommodation or transport. And without these, the job becomes more taxing and eventually the teachers will be compelled to keep searching for better jobs in other sectors.
So we are left with very lowly motivated teachers whose hearts are not really in class but in the newspapers like Imvaho and The New Times where jobs are regularly advertised.
This lack of commitment certainly has negative outcomes on the quality of education.
More so these lowly motivated teachers rarely follow the ethics of the job and therefore do not give their best in class.
At the end of the day it’s the students to pay. Just as they are getting used to a particular teacher, they hear that he has got a new job in MTN or Electrogaz and then they have to wait for weeks before a new one is found.
I know of students who have seen more than six teachers for just one subject in a space of three years.
In such a situation students are always in an endless struggle of getting used to new teachers and waiting for those gone to be replaced.
As we strive for better standards, we need to address the issue of improving teachers’ welfare to get them to love the job and stay long enough to leave a positive impact.
The Education Ministry ought to carry out a needs assessment to get to the root of the teaching staff problem.Follow https://twitter.com/ssojo81