TO SIR, WITH LOVE
As we celebrate World Teachers’ Day this month, we need to look at ways we can make it a profession that will attract the best talents available.
My father was a teacher – he began teaching when he was 20 and retired 35 years later. He was, by all accounts, contentious and diligent, and like all other teachers around the world, fondly remembered by some and not at all by others. A modest man in every aspect, he was the family’s sole breadwinner, successfully sending all three of his children through tertiary education, the only thing, he assured us, we would inherit from him. He encouraged my love for reading by bringing home books from the school library and provided all we needed as best as he could. And, when it was my turn to think about a career, his only advice was to never take up teaching.
Although he had come from a family of teachers – he was one of five brothers to go into education – he was adamant that none of his children should follow his footsteps, highlighting the poor job satisfaction, lack of access to relevant teaching aids, endless and, sometimes, pointless paperwork and low salary. And, yet, there was always that look of pride on my father’s face when an old student would stop and speak to him on the street – another one he had left a positive mark on.
This month, we celebrate World Teachers’ Day, which has been held annually on 5 October since 1994 and seeks to highlight the challenges the profession faces, as well as its rights and responsibilities. The UNESCO Institute of Statistics estimates that the world needs nearly 70 million more teachers if we are to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030 and the challenge is really in the recruitment. If the points my father made to stop me from me from being a teacher remain the case, it is unlikely this noble profession will attract the brightest and the best. Which, considering their duties of imparting knowledge and values to our young, is definitely what it needs.