Those of us who have a chance to go to school or take a child to school know that beside the workplace, a classroom is one place we spend a big chunk of our lives (and money) and the journey between Kindergarten through University and onto continuous professional development courses is several years. We believe that it is our basic right to access education and that going to school will help us attain learning and prepare us for work opportunities and success later on in our adult life. The Ugandan government has decided that teachers urgently consider upgrading their qualifications to at least a degree and as expected everyone has their own take on the matter. While the government has its reasons and the topic awaits cliché politicizing, teachers and schools really do need a closer look and maybe certain strict terms and conditions should be put in place to make sure we have proper schools, with the right people as teachers, if we are to realise a quality education, safe learning environment for children, and making the several years of investing time and money worthwhile.
Quality of Instruction
The quality of education a child receives depends greatly on the quality of the methods of instruction a teacher uses. The teacher must know and be trained in these methods which comes with higher training beside certificates, diplomas. While a certificate and diploma can be commendable qualifications in stricter and more developed countries, they don’t usually seem to designed for quality nor follow standard curriculum design here. Some teachers end up in the profession without any qualifications whatsoever, some are failed graduates, and many end up in the profession as a last resort. When such teachers interact with learners, not much can be expected in terms of outcome.
Absence of Inspiration
Speaking of no qualified and under-qualified teachers, a school should be a place of inspiration, creativity and intellectual discovery among other things. However, with the presence of clearly bored and unenthusiastic teachers, how can the passion for learning and discovery among learners be stirred when the people they look up to and spend so much time with lack motivation themselves? This could be due to the meagre salaries, poor working conditions, or having people that are not teachers at heart joining the profession for whatever reasons. Fortunately, though, one would have more confidence claiming a better pay when they have the recommended qualifications which is not the same when employers in schools know that most of their teachers are desperate, poorly qualified, under experienced and thus easily replaceable exasperating further the prevalent job insecurity among teachers.
Lack of Research
Amazingly, there is so much the human brain is capable of especially under the right circumstances and when provided with the right stimulants. Most job adverts today require interested candidates to be creative, something many applicants are not farmiliar with. Chances are this is caused by the teachers who have not been taught to research further into the subjects they teach and instead use the same notes, verbatim, for all their students from year to year. There is no new knowledge brought into the classroom, no life breathed into the subjects and topics, no intellectual growth among teachers, no keeping up with trends of what is going on lately in the world of education in other places and around the world, no knowledge of the latest in the job market that they seem to be preparing learners for, no testing of what is still relevant and what is obsolete which challenge is similar to teaching staff in Universities as well. Teachers upgrading and attaining degrees may not necessarily address these challenges but would be a good start, after all, students the world over deserve a thorough and quality education; and parents or guardians deserve a satisfactory return on their investment.
A Despised Profession
Law, Medicine, Engineering, Teaching are some of the old professions, however, while the rest may easily inspire children to want to become a lawyer, doctor, or engineer someday, teaching does not (maybe in Finland). Teaching here has been known to be a desperate profession people go into when they have no other alternatives and don’t want to join the police. Teaching on its own is a very noble and respectful profession, a teacher interacts with hundreds or thousands of learners of different backgrounds and abilities over the years. The common situation here is that students considered to be slow learners and academically poor performers are advised by parents to try taking on a simple training course in teaching or if they are able to get into university, are advised to considered an Education course because “it is easier and simpler”. In other words, it is common for students over time and the public to regard the average teacher as a ‘failure’ in life. But this can change, if teachers take the initiative to take on further learning more seriously, introduce teaching professional bodies and associations for networking, demand strict licensing, revise and strengthen the syllabus on Education being taught, benchmark for best practices with outstanding teachers in other countries, encourage proper career guidance, and advocate for strict professionalism and respected code of the ethics, then they might finally start to see a positive change in the general public’s perception towards them and the profession as a whole.
In summary, anyone who loves their job or doing what they do, would normally want to embrace any opportunities to learn more and grow both in knowledge and practice aiming to stay relevant to employers or clients or their community. Delayed and low salaries shouldn’t be an excuse as there are several Ugandans who don’t earn much but still dream of a bright future and take it upon themselves to do whatever they can and see themselves through school all the way to earning their first bachelor’s degree amidst several challenges. Also, with the East African community enabling easier and equal access to work opportunities across the borders, employers will definitely prefer better trained teachers from other East African countries, not to mention the increasing number of highly paid teachers coming here from South Africa, Ghana, Asia, the USA, and Europe. Going back to school to improve oneself benefits the teacher more than the government plus the rest of us working in other professions take it upon ourselves to pursue continuous professional development without waiting for the government to tell us and we do it for our benefit because the world of work is increasingly competitive and job insecurity is widespread but we want to stay relevant and informed and so should you.