“Poor teachers are like murderers”. That is an adage you have probably heard whenever educationists and policy makers speak on the quality of teachers in the country. The allegory is apparently intended to add depth and emphasis to the permanent harm the poor training of teachers does to learners.
In essence it depicts the power a teacher wields in shaping the fate of learners in every learning cycle. For many like me, born, bred and buttered in a teacher’s home, the poor-teacher adage has surely resounded in our ears more than in other children.
Every evening, my father, a headteacher of a primary school, could go through my exercise books to check on how I was doing in class. Sometimes it ended in tears because he believed in sparing the rod and spoiling the child.
Other times he would pick my books to discuss my marks in different subjects with the respective teachers. I would always end up scoring less than before.
I would feel dejected but he maintained that it was all for my own good, adding that if the teachers were not thorough, I would not be successful in the future. Now that the future is here, whether I’m successful or not is a debate for another day.
As long ago as 1995 when I was preparing for my O-Level exams, my father joined the National Teachers College to secure his diploma in primary education. I had wondered why a man of my father’s age was struggling to get additional papers until I overheard him tell a friend that a diploma was the new requirement for headship of certain grades of primary schools. During holidays I would assist him in doing his homework by explaining to him storylines in novels such as “No Longer At Ease” of Nigerian author Chinua Achebe.
Sometimes he would not grasp the storylines at the first go, but unlike himself, I never raised my voice or pulled a stick. Instead I would repeat and explain further until the point goes home. A lesson I learnt in those dealings with my father is that learning never stops and anyone can become a teacher at any point in life.
My father is now a retiree after a teaching career spanning over 40 years, having started as an unlicensed teacher and upgrading to Grade III, then to Grade V. On top of serving as a headteacher in several primary schools, he was an examiner with Uganda National Examinations Board.
I’m sure you already figured out that superman has got nothing on him but like many other teachers, he perhaps did all he could including upgrading his skills in preparing learners to be useful and acceptable members of society.
However, the bigger question is, of the 550,000 teachers in the country, as indicated in the June 6th Covid-19 presidential address, how many have picked from my father’s generation and are ready to upgrade or have upgraded?
As if to answer that question, the Ministry of Education through the 2019 National Teacher Policy, resolved that all teachers should have a minimum qualification of a Bachelor’s degree. By interpretation, the current Grade III certificate as the minimum qualification for primary school teachers, O-Level certificate for pre-primary, and Grade V certificate for secondary school teachers, might soon be phased out.
The more reason teachers, especially primary teachers, need to get self-motivated to go back to school and attain their degrees. Before the Covid-19 lockdown, for example, Muni University, the only public university in the West Nile region, opened her gates to pioneerBachelor of Education-Primary students targeting primary teachers having diploma in education. Teachers, be wise and get that degree!