A few days ago there were reports of schools paying special tributes to their teachers. The event was Teachers’ Appreciation Day and there were many children who wanted to say ‘Thank You’ to their teachers. These were children who were enjoying the benefits of their education.
It is not surprising that this was not the case in all schools, because in some of them, teachers do not pay the requisite attention to their wards. There are the enterprising few who leave the classes to attend University of Guyana, more often than not without the permission of the head teacher. These are the teachers who say that they want to qualify themselves so that they could become more marketable.
The question, here, is what happens to the children who are neglected? They would never be able to acquire an education and so be capable of even furthering their qualifications. Then there are the set of teachers who say that they are unable to take on the stress of other people’s children because they have their own.
One would expect that teachers at all times love the children they teach and do their best to ensure that these children become model citizens. The number of teachers who speak with pride about the successful children they help nurture is large. Some who have retired have had cause to seek out the services of these children and the help is readily forthcoming. The children are eternally grateful.
They may never have been able to use a designated forum to show their appreciation and so left school with perhaps a little more than a thank you or a bouquet for their teacher. These days the education system allows the children to say ‘Thank You’ while they are still at school.
This year the Guyana Teachers’ Union remembered some old teachers, at least two of whom are centenarians. These were people who devoted their lives to education. In one case, one of them did not even seek a life of her own. She never married and never raised children of her own. Teachers were like that way back then. They dared not become pregnant outside of wedlock.
It must be embarrassing to those who were beneficiaries of gratitude when deep in their hearts they knew that they contributed little. The Education Ministry may have been unaware of the lack of contribution, but the conscience is a remarkable thing; unless the recalcitrant teachers themselves are mercenaries and would take whatever comes regardless if the appreciation was merited.
It is here that the head teacher should be in a position to hold aloft the good ones and condemn to the proverbial dog house, the others who make little or no contribution to the development of the child. However, sadly enough, head teachers are weak. They are afraid to administer the school. Some want to be known as friends of all, even the mediocre.
This attitude has contributed to the decline in education in Guyana because there is no incentive to perform. People are rewarded even for poor performance.
And the children know who the good teachers are; they talk about them all the time and some parents listen. When the history is recorded and these teachers are ignored later in life they would understand that they are reaping the fruits of the whirlwind.
It is recognised that teachers are among the most poorly paid in this country. This is also the case in some other countries but more often than not, love of profession supersedes money. The joy comes from the success of the children. We have seen teachers cry for joy when their children do well. In fact, this is the case every year when schools enter children for one or other of the major examinations.
The joy and excitement the children felt were felt equally by the teachers. The success may be appreciation enough. However, the society has found it necessary to publicly appreciate the efforts of teachers.
Some private sector agencies take the appreciation even further. One of them created conditions for the teachers to earn more; another allowed the teachers to access money at preferential rates and so cope with the more affluent in the society.
The government dedicated land for housing for teachers at a cost they could afford. Indeed, teachers are the moulders of the nation, but some of them should not be so classified.