In my thinking thoughts, I realized October 5 is World Teachers Day (WTD) which is annually observed globally to honor and pay tribute to teachers.
This year’s theme, “Teachers at the Heart of Education Recovery”, indicates a dire quest to return the quality of Liberian pedagogy from its messy and COVID-19 broken status to a normal status lies heavily on the efforts of teachers.
While the 2021 theme speaks volumes to teachers in other serious nations, it is unfortunately meaningless to our Liberian education sector which is a “cash cow” for the privileged few, and the opportune political appointees and their exported recruits.
Importance of WTD
You see, fellow Liberians, World Teachers Day (WTD) is a sincerely religious opportunity for reflection over teaching and learning (pedagogy) all over the world where savvy and well-meaning education administrators operate. In all serious nations, on World Teachers Day, the services of teachers and their contributions to education are acknowledged and their roles and importance for the development of students and society appreciated.
The day is an occasion that pays tribute to teachers and tends to resolve some of the issues regarding their profession and hence tries to attract the brightest young minds towards this profession. International development partners such as UNESCO, Education International, UNDP, UNICEF, and the ILO organize annual thematic events to honor teachers. As a tradition, the theme for WTD 2021 “Teachers at the heart of education recovery” was presented by UNESCO for teachers' day in respect of their determined and diligent efforts in the crucial stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Activities of World Teachers’ Day
On WTD, Ministries of Education of serious countries organize Teachers’ Day celebrations in schools. In some serious countries, national statements of appreciation for teachers are issued, national souvenir programs are held where relevant Government Officials and private sector stakeholders attend to applaud, honor, and award teachers in various categories. Sadly, in Liberia, World Teachers Day is a farce because it has never appeared to meet any of those requirements nor conveyed the slightest attempt to organize programs that have a semblance of honoring teachers.
The Farce Situation
For the sake of the layman, farce means mockery, disgrace, and embarrassment. WTD is supposed to be a time where a nation genuinely bent on pursuing quality education would rise to the occasion and ensure teachers are honored at well-publicized programs like other groups are doing.
For instance, the Liberia Football Association (LFA) recently honored football players just for running behind a rubber ball and kicking it into a net. Each year, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), which is bleeding with karto-seeking journalists who frequently stalk politicians and newsmakers for stories and hand-outs, also observe annual honoring events.
If Karto seekers and rubber ball pushers can be honored appropriately, it is very foolish, embarrassing, and disgraceful to dishonor teachers who teach journalists, coaches, and referees. In this situation where nothing is being done to appreciate the sacrifices of teachers but asking them to recover the education sector, the WTD observance is a farce, while the education sector remains a cash cow for the privileged few.
Cash Cow Metaphor of the Education Sector
A cash cow is a metaphor for a cow that produces milk throughout its life and requires little to no maintenance. The farmer milks the cow periodically but does not do anything for it to produce milk. The teachers of Liberia are like cash cows.
Education administrators depend on teachers to stay in the classrooms and teach children so that an Education Ministry can exist so that the Government of Liberia (GOL) can allot money in the budget, so they (administrators) can maintain their jobs, get submerged in their undeserved incentives, flashy cars, gas, fuel and send their children to good schools.
In return for teachers’ activities to authenticate their survival, they do little or nothing for teachers to produce the pedagogy. Education administrators are the exploitative visionless farmers and poor teachers are the cows in the cash cow education sector. Each year, teachers are led to the barn, which is the classrooms, to get yoked or assigned subjects and excessively milked with no additional incentives or to appreciate nor honor their efforts.
A dishonored teacher is one who is teaching and deserves honor on a day such as WTD, but nobody cares to acknowledge his or her worth. A dishonored teacher, instead of being honored, receives low pay, lives in extreme poverty, works for months without pay, and is forced to send his children to substandard schools, while his former students turn affluent, never stop to reflect and take care of teachers’ issues. He is forced to accept bribes from students to afford transportation each day and to leave something for his wife and children to survive.
In serious countries such as Finland and other Western nations, in addition to the vast incentives they receive, teachers are honored regularly as motivation for them to sacrifice more. Unfortunately, instead of honoring our Liberian teachers, we dishonor them and leave them in disgruntled frames of mind and demotivated to teach.
Don’t Disrespect Teachers because they can make it happen
In 2019, a popular song which stormed the market in Liberia was: “Don’t disrespect me, because I can make it happen. Don’t disrespect me because I got on pah-pah (rubber shower slippers)."
Each time I listen to that song, I do not see it like a regular guy appealing to guys and gals for relevance but rather as a teacher reminding his former students -- lawyers, politicians, economists, doctors -- to respect him. How can teachers be the heart of recovery for the education sector when teachers are cheated and treated like trash, even at the college level.
Recently, University of Liberia instructors stopped teaching because of alleged corruption and gross disrespect to their practice. While UL top brasses and common paper packing staff were receiving unjustifiable salaries and incentives, instructors, who were teaching in the classrooms, were handed peanuts. During the COVID-19, half of the teachers did not receive stimulus money entitlement while education officials bathed in it.
Truly speaking, teachers have always been at the heart of education reform despite their ridiculous situations. Over the decades, teachers have always been the center of ridicule, and placed at the lower rungs of society.
The teaching profession is used as a springboard or waiting place for people who seek better jobs. Most of those in the teaching profession are only there because they have not been able to fit in the original professions of their passions.
Teachers are now asking, “How can we be at the heart of education recovery after we have been misused and abused for so long? How can we lead the recovery when the MOE cannot even issue a single statement of appreciation for us?
Are you going to subject us to continuous embarrassment each World Teacher Day? Will our bosses continue to shamelessly showcase the true character of clueless political appointees and private school owners who use the sector as a “cash cow” to improve their private investments at the detriment of the education budget? God forbid. To those ends, if teachers will remain the heart of the recovery of the education sector in Liberia, as they have always been, it would require divine intervention.
Before I am remiss, I take my hats off and bow to all teachers who impart knowledge to Liberian children. I hold with high esteem, all teachers who have been on MOE standby payroll for years, and have yet to get on regular payroll; my heart goes to private school teachers whose proprietors are misusing like tools by offering salaries that cannot even cover transportation; my heart goes to teachers who advocate daily for better work conditions.
Now, on World Teachers day, may the Lord bless all teachers, and keep them. May He make His face to shine on them and give them grace and give them the peace that only King Jesus himself gives. Amen.
HAPPY WORLD TEACHERS DAY!!!!