By Amin Kef Sesay
When confronted with the allegation that they are the true enemies of standards and progress of the nation’s educational system, teachers are quick to defend them-selves by saying they should not be blamed because they are poorly paid and have miserable conditions of service.
To any sound minded person who knows that teaching and the religious callings are purely sacrificial roles in society that are crucially important for any society’s intellectual upbringing and spiritual growth and development, there is no excuse why teachers on whom the rest of humanity depend on for education should deviate from their calling and put money over vocation.
Nobody, no Government coerces anybody to go into the teaching field. Educated, everybody who chooses to go into the teaching field for whatever reason does so at his/her own volition. If he/she thinks the salary and conditions of service are not good, that person can easily find another job in another field.
That said, actions that a Government and its partners take in education greatly impact the work of teachers because teachers are at the frontline of the movement to achieve quality education for all every single day.
That is why their engagements in the policy and planning process are critical. Their insights, experiences and needs must be central considerations to charting the roadmap for achieving education goals.
It is for example common to enter into a classroom in urban schools and see hundred children of different ages and background hardly focusing and a single teacher.
That teacher standing before that class reminded me of what I see in many schools – heroism. Faced with what seemed like insurmountable challenges, the teacher who may not be well educated tries to teach what he does not understand.
Education should be available to every child in every village to every poor child in every village, and not just the privileged few. That should be the goal of the entire education system, starting with the availability of enough trained and qualified teachers in the classrooms.
As such, getting children through the classroom door is not enough. Ensuring that they are learning is the critical piece, and more teachers and better teaching lie at the heart of any solution to the learning crisis – meaning many teachers need to be recruited far above the current supply – considering the ratio of trained teachers to students in many schools – particularly village schools.
Achieving equity in education will require a focus on access and learning outcomes, aimed at the hardest to reach children. This goal is about quality, and the quality of an education system cannot rise above the quality of the teachers that stand in the classrooms.
Thus, first and foremost, the Government’s effort to provide free quality education has to prioritize investment in teachers through improved salaries and incentives, the construction of teacher training centers, and teacher training activities.
Government and partners also need to provide funding that supports the engagement of teachers in national processes and research into best practices in teaching and learning. The aim is to engage teachers in discussions around teaching effectiveness, quality of education and the implementation of innovative approaches for teacher training.
Increased investments in the educational sector should result in decrease in classroom sizes and repetition rates, an increase in girls’ enrolment and in primary completion overall.
Improved conditions of service for teachers will result in improved teachers’ effectiveness without which educational outcomes would remaining appalling for the majority that take graduation public exams.