Simply Thinking Thoughts
In my “thinking thoughts” last evening about World Teachers’ Day (WTD) 2016, I took an introspection of the current state of affairs of education in Liberia, and how teachers are treated and perceived as being valueless in many quarters. I also considered the theme for this year’s WTD, ““Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status”” in the context of a Liberian articulation of “valuing teachers” I simply pondered and sighed asking under my breath, “Who do we Liberians value teachers as? “How do we brand teachers? How could we possibly re-brand them?”
World Teachers’ Day October 5 is set aside by UNESCO each year to recognize the sacrifices of teachers and honor them; all nations and stakeholders are required to implement programs befitting the essence of the day. According to a UNESCO release, this year World Teachers’ Day marks the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. It is also the first world Teachers’ Day (WTD) to be celebrated within the new Global Education 2030 Agenda adopted by the world community one year ago.
The theme for this year, “Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status”, is in consonance with the fundamental principles of the fifty-year-old recommendation on the need to support teachers as reflected in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #4, which pledges to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” It also highlights the fact that teachers are fundamental for equitable and quality education and, as such, must be “adequately trained, recruited and remunerated, motivated and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems”. However, in order to achieve this goal, it is necessary not only to substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers but to motivate them by valuing their work.
Perceptions of Teachers’ Values
Fellow Liberians, you would note that there is a groundswells of wrong perceptions about who teachers are supposed to be. In Liberia, teachers are sometimes branded as traditionally poor people; lower class civil servants; corrupt bunch that takes bribes and sex from students to award false grades; a mediocre lot who cannot be valued among the cream of educated Liberians; inept and causing mass failures in the West African Examinations (WAEC). In spite of all of these brand names or characterizations of teachers, “Who do you say teachers are?” This question of branding is not unique to Liberia, as Teacher Jesus himself was re-branded when he quizzed his disciples.
The Re-Branded Master Teacher Jesus
According to the Gospel of Mathew Chapter 16, Jesus, after being with his disciples for at least a year, one day asked them, “Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am?” They responded, “… Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets” Now, these brand names were attributed to Jesus because of the things he did and how they perceived him. Instead of satisfaction with the brilliant responses, Jesus turned the question around and asked them “…But whom say ye that I am?” And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It was there and then that Jesus was re-branded and given more value as the son of Almighty God.
Greatest of all
The story is told of a bunch of professionals, and people of affluence and influence who were in a heated useless argument regarding which profession was the greatest. The lawyer maintained that he could send anybody to prison for life or death by the movement of his gavel; the doctor averred he could heal or kill; the politician could change your situation and the President said,
“Everything you do, I am the boss. I can veto everything. I can fire you by my will and pleasure and nothing would come out of it. I can close down your schools if you misbehave and fire your teachers and your children will sit down home or find other schools.”
A poor teacher who was serving as the door keeper interrupted and said, “Why are you being ungrateful to teachers? Aren’t teachers the greatest among you? Teachers taught all of you men and women of influence and affluence in this room including the lawyers, doctors, legislators, and the Presidents. The whole room suddenly became consumed by quiet noises. And the rest of the story is yours to complete.
Valuing Embattled Liberian Teachers, Improving their Status
For the sake of the laymen, to be embattled is to be under attack; besieged; tormented; plagued in any form or manner. Recently on September 2016, when the National Teachers Association (NTAL) staged a protest to demand the resignation of Education Minister Werner and MCSS Superintendent Adolphus Jacobs, while all of the education degree holders, parents, Civil Society Organizations and other stakeholders sat on the fence, it was the poor embattled teachers who stood in the rain and carried the placards; when the President became upset over the trend of the protests, it was the embattled teachers who were threatened with dismissal and closure of their schools. The NTAL could have been threatened with withdrawal of Government incentives or a law suit on its person; instead, it was the “valueless” teachers who quivered when Madam President spoke.
Fellow citizens, let us retrospect and retrospect well. “Don’t we need to raise the value of teachers? Don’t they deserve more than they are receiving in terms of respect, honor and opportunities? I believe it is the whole duty of every human being under this sun who reads and writes to value teachers and stop seeing them as paupers, thieves, and underachievers. To value teachers as the WTD 2016 has proposed, we must “let them live”; let us desist from subjecting them to abject poverty, and instead empower them with professional development and training.
WTD 2016 Liberia Project
It is therefore to those ends that, in compliance with the WTD 2016 theme which proposes “Valuing teachers”, and the SGD Goal #4 which pledges “quality teachers for all by 2030”, the Diversified Educators Empowerment Project (DEEP), an in-service teachers training project was launched in 2015. DEEP is established to train teachers who are already in the classrooms but are not qualified or have received no pedagogical training. As a pilot in-service training project, DEEP will be graduating its first batch of qualified teachers in 2016 to continue in the classrooms; we will immediately launch DEEP Phase 2 as the WTD 2017 Project. We therefore invite all Liberians to honor teachers by participating in this worthy, noble and patriotic cause.
Fellow citizens, much is not required to re-brand teachers in our society. This is why DEEP has proposed to therefore re-brand teachers from inept to savvy; underachievers to achievers; valueless to valued; corrupt to role models, and hated to ”most cherished”.
Now my compatriots, as you go about your regular duties on World Teachers’ Day 2016; I, Mwalimu-Mku Moses Blonkanjay Jackson, a Harvard and Yale Trained Education Expert, charge you to take a minute and honor at least a teacher; a teacher who, at some point in your doggone life, may have made some positive impact to your flourishing or burgeoning current condition. You do not need gifts or money; simply call and say, “Thank you teacher, I appreciate you.”
This done, the Compassionate Savior will bless you and keep you; he will shine his face upon you and he will give you grace and give you peace that passes all understanding… the penalty for anything less than what I have charged is yours to decipher.
HAPPY WORLD TEACHERS’ DAY 2016!!!
About the author
The Rivercess Man, Moses Blonkanjay Jackson (The Mwalimu-Mku) is a triple Ivy League product, and a Jesuit protégé; Mr. Jackson is a Yale University Mathematics Curriculum Fellow, and a University of Pennsylvania Physics Curriculum Fellow. Mr. Jackson holds a Master of Education degree from Harvard University and a Master of Education with Secondary Mathematics concentration from Saint Joseph’s University.
The Harvard trained education scholar, Blonkanjay Jackson, previously served the Government of Liberia diligently, for four years from 2010 to 2014, as Consultant, and Assistant Minister for Teacher Education