World Teachers' Day highlights that we should invest in our teachers

An open letter to all of us who are benefiting from teachers, who have been influenced by teachers and who will still experience the joy of being taught by a teacher:


Today we celebrate World Teachers' Day and once again, we are reminded of the profound role that teachers play. We are also reminded of the role we have to play to nurture our precious resource.


The theme of World Teachers' Day, Invest in the future, Invest in Teachers, is well timed. Most of us agree that teaching is "The Mother of all professions" and that teachers are our standard bearers in society. These truths about the impact teachers have on us, have become mere catch phrases. These truths have lost their meaning because our actions contradict these beliefs. Let me explain.


Threats that face our teachers

Teachers no longer enjoy prestige in communities. They are undervalued and not appreciated. This loss of respect is part of the fallout of the changes taking place in society. What is more concerning is the lack of moral support that we provide to teachers to help them cope with the increasingly heavy demands made on them.


Teachers have a tough task. They must shape the heart and the minds of our children. They are the ones we depend on to help develop our children into brilliant, wholehearted citizens who will create wholesome communities. We know they are tasked with this dual responsibility, yet we only drive the academic agenda relentlessly.


Our expectations of teachers

We expect teachers to implement demanding curricula that require high level cognitive skills and we monitor their learners' progress with standardized assessments within a high accountability framework. The moral purpose of teaching our children to love themselves, others and the world deeply are almost left to chance.


We assume our teachers have the emotional and spiritual capacity to do this, forgetting that the teachers themselves are vulnerable and the product of the very broken communities they must help build. Teachers cannot teach authentically if they do not invest in teaching with their whole body, mind and soul. Teaching is not academic mechanics. We need competent, happy, well-adjusted teachers. What then, is our next step?


Our responsibility towards teachers

The theme for this year's World Teachers' Day - invest in the Future, Invest in our Teachers, sums up what our appropriate actions should be to safeguard our critical human resource, our teachers. If we truly believe that our teachers are the standard bearers of our society, we must ensure that we nurture both their professional and their personal well-being. The custodians of the teaching fraternity have their work cut out.


We must create more ongoing opportunities for teachers to improve their skills and deepen their knowledge to deliver excellent classroom teaching in this fast -changing world of ours. Simultaneously, we must implement a rigorous care and support programme to ensure that we nurture the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of our teachers.


Such a Wellbeing programme should go beyond the one-shot days of therapy and flowery speeches, no matter how well intended. We need an institutionalised programme that enjoys the same levels of intensity and accountability to ensure teachers are the best academic, spiritual classroom leaders we expect them to be. Such an approach is fundamental. This balance is critical.


When we show such compassion and the willingness to action our deep understanding of how to support our teachers, the rewards for all of us will be far reaching. When we embrace our dual responsibility of helping others to grow holistically, we ourselves will grow as wholehearted people.


Are we ready to embrace our responsibility?

Teachers will always make a difference, even if we ignore our responsibility towards them. Teachers will continue to inspire millions who will add value to our world. For this, we applaud them and congratulate each one of them for their commitment and their passion for caring about us and our world.


The challenge to the rest of us is: are we ready to embrace our responsibility to support and inspire our teachers? Are we going to be as courageous and relentless in our efforts to build a meaningful programme of care and support for the teaching fraternity?







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