I love teachers. I admire teachers. I was born by parents who were career teachers. I am a product of teachers. I therefore sympathise with the plight of teachers. I understand that they are not well remunerated compared with other government workers. I know that they are sneered and not appreciated by parents of the children they tirelessly teach. I know that teaching is not a career of the faint hearted and for self seekers. I also hold entrepreneurial interest in the education industry. I have therefore sided with teachers in their endeavour (STRIKES) to have their meagre salaries increased. However majority of the colleagues and general public are of contrary opinion and I sought to find why the public would be against people who equipped them with knowledge.
Even as teachers seek to engage in another industrial action to defend their pay, I would like them to know that public opinion is not in their favour. Kenyan youths who are jobless are very bitter with teachers. They blame them for misleading them by teaching them irrelevance. How can one be jobless after spending seventeen years in school courtesy of teachers’ exhortation that good grade will secure good employment only to find out that employers are not interested in grades but experience and skills? I wish every teacher’s goal was to ensure that what they taught was relevant and that each of their student succeeded or at least got employed in life. Teachers would be heroes, everyone would appreciate teachers.
Kenyan parents are equally bitter with the current crop of teachers in public schools. Recent survey by Uwezo Kenya indicated that majority of class seven pupils could not compute basic mathematics. The quality of education they are offering is not satisfactory at all. Absenteeism of teachers from class, conducting personal businesses during work hours characterise many teachers. This has made it difficult for teachers to defend their pay increase on the basis of performance. Teachers also refused to sign performance contracts which they would have used to convince public that they already have results. As it is now, the quality of education in public schools remains poor and unacceptable.
It is surprising that private school teachers who are paid lower salaries produce more impressive results than teachers in public schools. The public cannot accept the theory that students in public schools underperform because of teachers are poorly paid. Teachers should therefore justify why they should be paid more through good performance of their pupils.
Teaching is a career that is defined by morals. The public expects teachers to have high moral standing not only in words but also in deeds. The same teachers who punished us whenever we went on rampage in high school and in university should also be punished when they engage in an illegal strike. Otherwise teachers will lose the moral authority of punishing their students when they engage or go on strike. The double standard applied by teachers has created a sense of impunity among Kenyans where majority of Kenyans are law breakers. If you want prove it go anywhere with this sign “ Usikojoe hapa” you will be shocked with what you see. Teachers are the moral compass in the society, they do not teach us skills alone they are responsible for instilling moral values. Picketing in the streets is inappropriate for teachers.
To cut the short story, teachers should know that teaching is like preaching as my father would say. You don’t do it because you are paid; you do it because it is a divine calling. Every teacher with divine calling is a great teacher. Teachers who teach because it was the most available job that they found are usually ineffective. Teaching is not a career for every Tom, Dick and Harry and those who join it should not do it because of the material rewards. Even Saint Paul warned against having too many teachers, because teachers will be judged by a higher standard than the students. Teaching profession should be for those who derive much satisfaction from seeing their pupils or students becoming more knowledgeable, informed and educated. Material rewards should serve as a compliment.
To all selfless teachers who devote many hours in their noble calling, don’t lose heart, keep at it, it is only God who can pay you.
Regards to Mrs Lucy Kimani, my lower primary school teacher, Mr. James Gichuru for instilling in me arithmetic literacy, Mrs. Rachael Kimani for your care, Mrs. Beth Maina for discovering my abilities; Mr. John Onguso my high school teacher for restoring my esteem. I esteem all of you highly.