This weekend, one of the former legendary English teachers who taught at my cherished secondary school, Ms. Priscilla Duncan, would be laid to rest in Cape Coast.
It is also the week during which the world, and for that matter, our dear nation also celebrated the crop of professionals who mould our minds, shape them, sharpen our thoughts and our actions as good and responsible citizens for our future and that of the nation. The profession of teaching.
To mark the world event, we in Ghana celebrated teachers across the country yesterday, with a grand durbar at the Eastern regional capital, Koforidua. We could not have selected a better capital to celebrate the flowers of our nation. I was in Koforidua last week after almost five years since my last visit. The town has lived up to its accolade – “Koforidua Flowers.” A very busy town but a lot of noticeable changes.
What could any professional have done without a teacher? From the first gentleman of the land, through to anyone, high and low, we all once sat at the feet of a teacher who taught our infant mind and handed the baton on to another crop of teachers who taught our adult to old age minds.
Even the Professor in the lecture room owes his or her academic credentials to a teacher. And so, we salute all our teachers far and near, young and old, dead or alive with an “Ayekoo” salute on this remembrance day.
Co-incidentally, earlier this week, I saw trending on social media, a video on teachers. The video did not stop short of the good teachers have been and continue to be to society. The key player in the video summarised her thoughts on teachers when she said, “If I ruled the world, teaching would be one of the highest paid professions.” She is of the opinion that teachers should be treated like royalty. She was on point.
The theme for the celebration of World Teachers Day which fell yesterday, 5th October, is: “Teaching in freedom, Empowering Teachers.”
Teaching of yesteryear
At the time that some of us passed through school, whether at the basic or secondary school level, we had the best of times with our teachers. There was a lot to show that the teacher of those good old days were 99.9 percent dedicated and they enjoyed what they did.
Going through a girls boarding school for under 12s, we had teachers whose outward show was to raise up intelligent and confident young women who would grow up as responsible citizens. We were taught extra-curricular activities from housewifery to gardening, through to traditional dancing and the confidence to stand in front of a debating group.
From there to the classroom of secondary school days, we had teachers who had the love to be in the classroom and beyond. Foreigners as majority of them were, they came without a family and made us their families, with the dedicated commitment as well as all the time in the world for us. They gave us a foundation which today has carried a unique tradition of excellence in the school, Wesley Girls High School.
Today, when we meet as old girls, ancient or modern and on our WhatsApp platforms, all we do is to recall those selfless and dedicated teachers and talk about them with much fondness and laughter. We remember them so affectionately even to this day because they are the ones who shaped us for the stages we have got to today.
The pressures of today may have changed the dynamics for the newest crop of teachers. But the truth and the facts however, cannot be changed when it comes to the contribution of a teacher. It is a profession that must be acknowledged and celebrated.
Every single day, for about six to seven hours, a teacher gets assigned to not less than 30 children from all backgrounds, disruptive, hyperactive, unmotivated, slow, high, moody or happy, to deal with. How many of us parents have the patience to handle even two disruptive children at home without going bananas?
Apart from the children, these teachers have to contend with annoying parents who are angry at a teacher because a disruptive child has been punished in one form or the other. We even have parents who go to the school to fight or beat up teachers for correcting their children. The woes of the teacher follow him or her home. They go home to settle down to marking and preparation of notes for the following day.
Yet the teacher is one of the least paid professionals. As a member of a panel of three who recently interviewed over 60 needy and brilliant students for scholarships to Senior High Schools across the country, among the lot, we could only count two people who said they wanted to be teachers.
Yet, some of them had been brought to Accra from their base by their school teachers. The teachers simply did not want their students to miss the opportunity of a scholarship when parents gave excuses that they either could not afford the fares to Accra or they had to go to the farm or market.
When asked about their future professions, many of the children said they wanted to be medical doctors, nurses, pharmacists, journalists, architects, IT specialists or lawyers. They saw some glamour in those professions and envisaged they were well paid too. But certainly not for the teacher.
One cannot begrudge any child with that perception about teachers because we have made their work look more sacrificial and unimportant.
We thank the UNESCO/ILO convention of 1996 which endorsed a day to globally commemorate the work of Teachers. We are grateful to the Ministry of Education here in Ghana for consistently putting time and efforts behind the celebration of the day and creating a greater awareness of the worth of teachers. But more importantly, the value attached to the prize given to the dedicated teachers in our communities must be highly commended.
No doubt, the world celebration of teachers has signalled that the teaching profession is as valuable as any others. Their reward indeed should be given to them here on earth. When they get to heaven, they can continue with the bigger, eternal recognition.