The Impact of Teachers’ Role in The Pursuance of Quality and Standard Education in The Gambia
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
The role of teachers in the quest for quality education is quite enormous and beyond the imagination of a common man.
Teachers are agents of change, role models, transformers of unknown to known and the power behind any form of human development. Teachers play a pivotal role in any economic activity which branded the most vital machines in the labour force. No country can deliver well in the absence of the role of teachers. We cannot produce trained and qualified doctors and nurses without going though the hands of teachers, likewise teachers, lecturers, accountants, agriculturists, pilots, soldiers, polices officers, economists, managers, scientists, lawyers, journalists, the list goes on and on.
The role of teachers in economic development is complex and indefinable. It is therefore imperative upon all of us as patriotic citizens and development oriented people, to take a glance at the conditions and welfare of our teachers boldly and realistically. Education is the bedrock of any development which we need to factor out and to reshape the whole sector to create a better and conducive environment for all.
The conditions of teachers in this country are pathetic for which further adjustment is required. Some had misconceptions about teachers and unless and until such misconceptions are readdressed, we would not be able to achieve our educational goals. Teachers are subjected to series of disrespect and discriminations in our society. Teaching is now seen as a job for less intelligent, poorest and those desperate in finding jobs and teachers are seen as outcasts in most social and economic functions. These had compelled many to abandon and hate teaching as a career and profession. Infact, it is impossible to be too clear about people’s attitudes towards teachers.
I thought it would be enough to leave an impression of sound and feeling about teachers’ conditions in this country and let the meaning seep in until the readers or relevant authorities break-in. However, we have stated below some of the points that are vital for all stakeholders in educations to keenly go through and make sense out of them and ponder over them. They are not criticisms neither to create controversy. It is all about solving the perennial problems we are confronted in the sector.
Financial/Economic condition: The income of teachers is generally low and this seriously harnessed the progress of their financial conditions or economic status and had call for better changes. Teachers entirely rely on their meager monthly salaries which they slice into bits to solve their numerous problems. With the advent of Gambia Teachers Union Cooperative Credit Union (GTUCCU) some of the teachers made saving.
However, the number of withdrawals teachers make forced the union to restrict them as it may lead to the closure of the credit union. They continue to take loans and bank overdrafts monthly. This implies that a great number of teachers are not financially comfortable. It has been realized that their are teachers who do find it difficult to pay their children’s school fees much more to regularly provide adequate learning materials. There are so many teachers who cannot afford to buy a plot of land for themselves, which compel them to live in rented houses.
The Ministry of Education and the Gambia Government should restructure the entire pay scale of teachers in The Gambia. This will enable them to cope well with their works at schools. Some of us cannot afford the high cost of rent so we live in houses with leaking roofs and cracked walls with rats and cockroaches as our hosts. More of this would be discussed later.
Motivation: In the quest for quality and standard education, there is a need for all of us to gauge our mind very well in order to give maximum support to those in the front line to effect the changes in the right direction. Education is a dual concept and convention that is a most in our journey to better education. In any education forum, there must be a giver (knowledgeable man) and a receiver (learner), if one of the parties is affected proper learning cannot becomes impossible. In the contemporary world, experienced and learned people had discovered that no serious achievement can be made in the absence of human resource development and motivation. Various theories have justified this point. So many of us appear untidy not willingly but cannot afford decent clothing. You often see teachers in rumpled shirts and trousers, threadbare dresses, malnourished or underfed, almost worn-out unpolished shoes and some with cracked heels like teeth of sickle due to exposure to hamatan wind. All are not our desires but due to improper care and motivation of teachers.
The voice: Many a time you wonder about the existence of the Gambia Teacher’s Union. The union should come up with programs that will paste the concern of teachers on the wall for all to read and understand, be it through the radio, television program, drama, musical concert or whatsoever. You will undoubtedly agree with me that the legislative body of our beloved nation constitute more than ten teachers including the speaker and the deputy speaker. To the greatest surprise, non of these can still come up with a tangible and sensible Bill concerning the plights of teachers in this country more so to improve and uplift the status of teachers in The Gambia. This is an embarrassment for them and total misrepresentation of this great sector. Who then is going to serve as our voice to be heard? The president had made a choice for a lot of teacher to be voted into the National Assembly of which the electorate had consented to by casting their votes for them and that’s all. Neither the president nor the electorates can force words into your mouths to say in the assembly. Do something for us as you are on extreme edge of your term.
Policies: Our operations are governed by rules or policies some of which are factors worsening the conditions of teachers. It is common sense that no soldier can go to war without a weapon. Likewise, no government can operate without money. In business management, we are told that there are four Ms which form the resources for any business, Man, Machine, Material and Money. No effective learning can take place without materials. Teachers are asked not sent children home because of materials and fees. We are complying but can you come with other alternatives for the teachers to achieve quality education? At times teachers use coercive tendencies temporarily as some can afford the materials but are unwilling to, some you definitely understand their conditions but you can only know that after imposing such powers. Teachers are exempted to use all forms of punishment. We deal with thousands of students daily and there must be at least a punitive mechanism to correct the learners. In the society you have prisons and police stations as centres for rehabilitation and correction, schools are also social settings which need to have corrective measures. In police stations they beat people there. Should they? Are those beaten not human beings? Don’t they have right to be counseled and not to be physically beaten? Come on! Let us be realistic and fair in treating situations. Yes, teachers all over had agreed to stop physical beating but there should be a mechanism to instill discipline in learners not be too violent to teachers and their colleagues. If not lets go for NATIONAL PARENT-TEACHERS ASSOCIATION as soon as possible to address the whole situation.
Lack urgency: Another factor realized as menace in the role of teachers in achieving quality education is attitude of most senior officers in the ministry. So many teachers had graduated from the university and had been teaching for years but are not recognized by the ministry as graduates and are still receiving grade seven salaries and some cannot bear it and had to quit for either private schools or other jobs. This is not a fair game. Some were offered a cadet administrative assistant post at PMO but were denied a transfer to serve under PMO and yet they failed to consider those people, particularly those who had sacrificed and worked in the interest of the nation. At times people are being under paid or not receiving certain allowances and when they write for changes to be made their claims are not honoured or take unnecessary long period of time which force some of them to abandon their work.
Analysis: Achievement of quality education is a concern for all no one should be deceived by this. We are all aware of the problems facing teachers in this noble sector. Teachers therefore need further motivations like teachers’ housing scheme (estate), better allowances, better salaries, trainings and to consider the graduate schools particularly those under boards. The teachers need to participate in policy making particularly in school administration. Those who make policies for teachers distort the entire system because they send their own children to private schools where such policies will not be applicable and exempt the children of the poor from acquiring quality and standard education. This is why our teachers and foreign teachers go to such schools where they will get better pay and collect study fees from them monthly, hence they deny those in the public schools.
The slogan of education in this country is “the sky is the limit”, but our observation have revealed that education is sinking beneath the earth and it only need remedial attention which begin with improving the economic status of teachers for them to develop stable and well balanced minds in their work.
If teachers’ conditions remain as it is, it would be very difficult if not impossible to achieve quality education in this country.
Suggestions and contributions are highly welcomed. We want to extend our heartfelt appreciation to Mr. Bai Koro Sallah of Banjul for his advice and manifest concern shown for our paper and this column in particular. It is all about nation building and nothing more. Guide us the right direction, for the Gambia our home land, so that we strive and work and pray together toward our common good.
Author: Janneh S Darboe