Wednesday, July 17, 2024

The solution is with the teacher

Dear Editor,

In my previous article in The Telegraph of 5th February 2014, I posited that our country’s education system needs to be overhauled as a matter of urgency and I am greatly humbled now that the president has issued a presidential education probe of the entire system. Hereunder is my opinion and further submissions.

Whereas it is essential, if we have to establish what is changing in the teaching profession to lead to such a high rate of failure of students at primary school leaving, Junior certificate and Botswana general certificate of secondary education examinations, we need to first establish and have a clear understanding of who and how teachers perform their job.

Teachers are not licensed by the state, but a proposal for a teaching council is before cabinet for its consideration and as such, they are currently recruited on the basis of objective qualification and credentials. Teaching is a peculiar profession as though teachers are employed by the state, they are not state officials for they enjoy a greater autonomy from direct control in the performance of their work and may bring a hidden curriculum to their classes. This is so as in classrooms, teachers have no laid down procedures to be followed in delivery of the curriculum making it difficult for outsiders to evaluate their work.

Noting with concern that the situation in schools has drastically deteriorated as supported by a high failure rate, the state, which is not only an administrative and coercive apparatus but an educative and formative entity, in trying to find the particular solutions to the general problems and the general solutions to the particular problems, mindful that under the Ministry of Education, teachers are the largest in numbers, the government, prompted by political will, must try to fit itself to them.

It is worthy mentioning that the presidential education probe is much welcomed though long overdue for teachers have long since been advocating for institutional reforms in education without much attention given to their plights. More importantly, Cabinet, in its deliberation, must determine the control of the curriculum and teaching, goals and policies that guide education, separate remuneration of teachers and the desirable economic outcome of the school.

It is the obligation of the state to ensure access and equity to education for pupils up to a minimum school leaving age and in our country, it is form five. Because of this, many pupils find their way up the education ladder while having bad academic grades at lower schools. Teachers, who are employed by the state to join the public service because they have integrity, who do not choose whom they will teach or what they will teach, and as neutral conduits of education for the desired outcomes, get faced with the challenge of performing miracles to pass the students.

In the absence of the teaching council and shortage of qualified teaching staff, the teaching profession, especially in the science departments, notably Physics and Mathematics, has many temporary teachers who do not hold a teaching certificate. These teachers, as they have not been trained in the philosophy of education and the psychology of the learners, they would rather treat students passively as though they were numbers without feelings. This attitude invites attack on teachers as a whole and the curriculum as a mistrust of their quality and commitment would be brought into play.

There is a tendency of lack of responsiveness to new technology by teachers in their delivery of instructions. Teachers tend to stand in the way of reforms and progress as the current cohort of learner are very much into technology hence teachers must employ these tools for the benefit of learners. Though some teachers are willing to use the same, they are more often not availed as teachers do not decide their levels of funding as seen in spending cuts and shortage of resources.

In the past years, there was great prestige and autonomy attached to tertiary rather than secondary, secondary rather than primary teaching. This has since been eroded due to the introduction of levels of operations for teachers. A loss of prestige leads to a loss of commitment. All that is left with now is their inherent autonomy, the prestige is gone.

Now therefore, seeing the panic over falling standards and illiteracy, the fear of violence in schools, the anger over destruction of family values, and in the knowledge that the solution is with teachers, government in engaging them to finding solutions had said “I want us to objectively look at the problem together, not at each other. You are the one who taught the to challenge statements of their elder, to demand the source of the policemen’s authority. Now, we ask you for the same energy and dedication, to improve their results and further instil a sense of pride in the students and in the teaching profession as well”.

Mindful of all issues faced by teachers, I am competent that if they unite and collectively work together for a common solution, especially now that government has shown support of their cause, the teaching profession can be promoted and elevated to a position equivalent or surpassing that of legal practitioners and in turn, the problem of falling standards and illiteracy would be solved.

Kamwi Mike Nkomba (writing in his individual personal capacity)

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