So much has been happening on the education scene that it actually took me a while to decide on what to write. Last Friday saw the opening of the first East African Education Exhibition and a Conference. Soon after, Fountain Publishers Rwanda Ltd launched a comprehensive Kinyarwanda-English dictionary authored by Prof. Geoffrey Rugege.
This week started off with the closing ceremony of the Education expo. I found time to visit the expo and I must say it was well organised and well attended.
Several Universities from Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda were joined by numerous Rwandan primary and secondary schools. I even saw a stand for a nursery school with lively kids singing Christmas carols (in October!).
However I was disturbed by the clear absence of representatives from Tanzania and Burundi. These countries are also in the East African Community and should make an effort to participate in such events. Tanzania has very good international schools in Arusha and DaresSalaam plus legendary universities like the University of Dar es Salaam and Sokoine University that should have attended.
With the exhibition behind us, the second day of this week, October 5TH was World Teachers’ Day. Yes, teachers also have an internationally recognised day. Although it is not a public day, teachers here in Rwanda had the day off and a good number gathered at Nyamirambo regional stadium to celebrate.
The National theme for the day was “Developing Teachers Based on Mentality Change.” This theme was not so different from the international theme for the day which was, “Recovery Begins with Teachers.”
The first World Teachers’ Day was celebrated in 1994 to commemorate the October 5, 1966, signing of the UNESCO – ILO recommendations on the status of teachers.
UNESCO encourages students and concerned government and private institutions to embark on activities that show appreciation for the vital contribution that teachers make to education and national development on this day.
On Tuesday (World Teachers’ Day), The New Times carried a story talking about the need for teachers’ salaries to be increased. The arguments therein were that the current salaries do not augur well with the prevailing market prices. What this essentially means is that, teachers earn very little compared to other civil servants with the same level of qualification.
This imbalance in earnings explains the unending exodus of teachers to other careers that are more rewarding. This scenario bleeds the system of good teachers and thus affects efforts to ensure quality in schools.
However, the welfare of teachers goes beyond just having better salaries. Government and other private school proprietors need to look into other grievances like the acute lack of accommodation facilities in form of teachers’ quarters. With these in place, teachers can be close to the school and thus monitor students on a more regular basis.
In a situation where accommodation close to the school is not readily available then there should at least be an arrangement for transport to ensure that teachers can arrive to school on time and not have to compete for taxis during the morning rush hour. Where accommodation and transport are not provided, the little money that a teacher gets is quickly depleted by rent and transport demands.
The government and Teachers’ Service Commission also need to do something about the huge gap between what teachers in public schools earn and what their colleagues in private schools get. Save for a few elite private schools, many simply exploit teachers with low salaries that are paid in a very irregular manner.
Teachers also need to be accorded further training opportunities so that they can acquire better skills or upgrade on the ones they already possess. But more importantly, teachers need to have their work respected by their employers, students and parents.
Some parents in defence of their errant children easily disrespect teachers accusing them of all sorts of things and forgetting that it is part of the teachers job to discipline an errant student.