By Kayode Ojewale
If you’re going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can’t be erased – Maya Angelou (1928-2014), Poet and civil rights activist.
What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others – Pericles (495-429 BC), Greek Statesman.
Recovery from a breakdown, setback, illness, heartbreak, or any form of life’s challenges may not come easy and quick because the building process takes time. Education was one of those sectors badly affected by the COVID-19 occasioned lockdown in 2020. Apart from the academic calendar that was altered by the pandemic, the education sector experienced a setback that caused many students some delays before the introduction of online classes by some citadels of learning. Exams that could not be conducted virtually were put on hold until the relaxation of lockdowns. While observing the COVID-19 protocols, students have now come to the reality of the ‘new normal’ as they attend classes physically.
World Teachers’ Day is marked on the 5th of October every year. This year’s occasion of the World Teachers’ day anniversary themed, “Teachers at the heart of education recovery”, is timely and very crucial with the covid-19 ‘new normal’. Since the discovery of the deadly coronavirus in 2019, mankind has been grappling with fear as the disease raged, ravaged and reduced human population with many deaths it left in its wake. Despite the advent of covid-19 vaccine, man is still not immune from contracting the deadly disease leaving humanity in susceptibility and vulnerability to attack if the regular preventive measures are dumped and abandoned.
Undoubtedly, the world is still gradually returning to full operations and recovery from the damage caused by the pandemic. So that the education sector won’t collapse, teachers are the principal actors who are saddled with the responsibility of reviving and revitalising the sector for a total recovery from the various negative impacts COVID-19 brought on education.
In this COVID-19 era, teachers are at the centre in the continuous struggle to ensure that education sector does not suffer further relapse despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. The teachers are daily confronted with the risk of easily contracting COVID-19 because they relate directly with their students. The teachers are not deterred by this as they empty themselves in order to nourish their students with lifetime wisdom. In carrying out their duties, the teachers wear themselves out, all for the students. What a sacrifice!
Teachers’ day is an avenue that is not only meant to celebrate teachers but to also express their rights, responsibilities, teaching and learning conditions. Trained teachers, world over, have a quality that no professional may exhibit; that quality is patience. They are patient professionals who do their job with total commitment bearing in mind that the student’s performance is a reflection of the teacher’s inputs and efforts. However, many of them are not motivated or encouraged to do so again despite their huge contribution to the development of every society. No nation succeeds without teachers because they are influential forces to be reckoned with in the development of any society. Teachers determine the future of every society because they plant seeds that germinate to be the next generation.
Teachers deserve to be glorified as the profession, these days, appears to be only for the poor or the last resort for job seekers. Teachers, whether in private or public schools, unarguably have a dog’s chance of survival amidst an army of starving lions in our society today if their salaries are anything to go by in comparison with what professionals in other fields earn as monthly take-home. If the significance of teachers is valued, their welfare would be of high importance to the key stakeholders (government and parents) in education. This narrative must change in order to accord teachers the true honor they deserve.
Celebrities like artists, sportsmen, politicians and others appear to be more glorified than teachers in our society today resulting in a decline for respect for teachers. Motivations should be inviting and high in order to motivate them and other intending teachers. In this age, people tend to reward social achievements far more than academic performances. Accolades and huge rewards are allotted to shows which do not promote nor add up to intellectual improvements while educational shows or competitions come with peanuts as rewards.
A very good way to appreciate and acknowledge teachers, the knowledge icons, is to ensure that the legacies they set by way of teaching are sustained and subsequently passed on to generations to come. As they teach from time to time, the learners or rather, the beneficiaries must do well to prevent the death of the knowledge received when these iconic instructors bow out of the stage of life.
In order to make this day memorable for teachers, I urge every student currently in school to acknowledge them and show gratitude by offering their teachers gifts. Students can also send handwritten messages to them in appreciation of their meritorious impacts on them. School owners, administrators and principals will do well to also give awards to outstanding teachers. Parents are not exempted from rewarding these teachers, who, against all odds, commit their best to their profession in the COVID-19 era.
Few days ago, the Federal Government announced that Nigerian teachers will begin to enjoy an enhanced salary structure effective January 2022. It was also reported that some incentives would be included and that their service year to be extended from 35 to 40. This is a welcome development as it would spur teachers to do more. The future of Nigeria would be secured if the diligent and determined efforts of teachers are handsomely rewarded. Motivation comes when their areas of needs are addressed and their welfare is well taken care of.
Special tributes should be paid to all teachers to acknowledge their unflinching contributions to education as part of activities lined up for the commemoration of the day. Teachers have been instrumental to whatever or whoever we all have become today, irrespective of our fields.
To all teachers out there; Happy Teachers’ Day!
Kayode Ojewale is of the Public Affairs and Enlightenment Department of LASTMA