Many may disagree with me when I say that the government is not investing as it should in teachers. They will ask me if I do not see the new state-of-the-art school buildings that are being built across Guyana; the hundreds of textbooks that are issued to schools every year; curriculum materials to enhance the learning process; and other physical interventions which have been made by the government over the decades since our independence. But that is not what I meant when I mentioned investing in teachers. That exactly is what this year’s World Teachers Day theme talks about: investing in our teachers which would impact positively on the children that they teach.
Yes, teachers are trained by the government for three years at the Cyril Potter College. They are given a small increase in salary each year. They are given a few dollars to buy clothes and shoes every January, and they are given vacation leave with full pay once every four years. Other than those I mentioned, there isn’t very much more that is done to keep teachers in the system in Guyana. Much more can and needs to be done to invest in teachers. Nothing good can happen to an already shaky education system where the government is totally ignoring the needs of teachers. In fact, more harm is done to the delivery of education in the numerous schools across Guyana. Many teachers want out of the system but many of them do not have a choice. As a result, their service to the nation’s children is somewhat diluted because of poor remuneration packages.
What will also happen is that the government will continue to train hundreds of teachers every year at CPCE and over half of them would migrate after their training. But investing in our teachers means more than filling their pockets every month with fat salaries. It is about how they are treated. Are teachers being treated well today? Do they feel wanted, treasured, loved, worthy or even valued at all? Ever since I was small I always believed that teachers were special people. I used my imagination after school in the afternoons while I was small to pretend I was a teacher. I would sometimes lash the posts and benches, even the chalkboard. I would do everything I envisaged my teachers doing. Other than the fact that doing what I did helped me academically, in my subconscious it was clear that teachers were very important people. They have fascinated me, from nursery to secondary school – even training college. Thank God I had very good teachers at my disposal. They all loved what they did.
Someone asked me the other day, what does a teacher do when he or she gets fed up or confused with the job? I told her that that teacher should return to the beginning of his or her career.
They should do some soul searching, to dig deep within themselves as to why they joined teaching. Every teacher needs to do that ever so often. Always remember that the reason for being in teaching is not only for the money you collect every month but because it is a labour of love for the future of this country.
If it involves building the nation by passing on knowledge and good morals to the younger ones, then I don’t think that there is any nobler task that any other can perform.
Teachers must also invest in themselves if they are to be worthy men and women in their profession. They should constantly upgrade and update their qualifications and skills. They should never be comfortable with their current academic standing. It won’t be easy. However, it would get us nowhere to always complain and criticize if we aren’t even willing to make the first move to help ourselves. And yet we expect others to help us.
I will stand up and defend the name of teachers in Guyana to the point I will give them all the satisfaction they need. I will be critical of the government and those in authority. But I will not condone those who have brought disrepute to this noble profession. I will not sit idly by when every day many of Guyana’s children go home with little or no contact with their teachers. We have a lot of work to do. The officials and government might only lend us a listening ear when we are doing everything which we ought to do. Maybe we have to clean up our act first and then ask for better pay packages and conditions. We are adults and need to behave better.
I will not stifle my conscience and say that teachers are doing their very best in Guyana. Many of them are not. Many are not serious about what they have set out to do. Maybe they need to return to the beginnings of why they entered teaching. If they entered teaching because they have nothing else to do, then they might as well leave the system. We cannot have people like those in charge of the future.
I have seen nationwide many ill-equipped persons functioning in the capacity of teachers. They are not ready to teach. And they are most certainly not ready to pass on skills and knowledge to young minds. Yes, I will not lie to myself and pretend that we teachers deserve it all, that we deserve the best treatment from the government. No we do not because many have given a bad name to the profession. Maybe that is why more investment is not forthcoming.
But I beg the public not to judge us all by those few. While nobody is perfect (even teachers), maybe more investment in teachers can remedy this problem. Today, on World Teachers Day, I salute every single teacher in Guyana. Their contributions towards the national development of this country are well lauded. Some teachers are really working and trying very hard despite everything. They should never take the job that they do lightly or for granted.
Let us ask ourselves, why so many children respond that they want to become like us teachers, sirs and misses. They see what we do through innocent eyes, for to them it is a job which is important, and represents a high position, a privileged title, and a responsibility which is celestial in nature. And that is how the desire to become a teacher starts. It is our duty to let them see how it ought to be done; how to master the most important job in the world.
Leon Jameson Suseran