While growing up, I never knew I would be a teacher someday. I didn’t appreciate a profession that promised rewards only in heaven. I was of the opinion that if one worked tirelessly for eight hours, 5 days a week; impacting lives and molding future leaders, the relevant rewards should be non-negotiable. The saying, “life happens,” has today become my reality. I am one of the ‘privileged’ who humbly wear the teacher tag but yes, I consider myself truly privileged.
These past two years as a teacher have been filled with experiences and opportunities to learn, unlearn and relearn every detail about this noble profession. It is special to me because it has further strengthened my advocacy for the advancement of gender equality, provided a platform to inspire young minds to take up action in creating the future they deserve and more importantly, I am a huge part of my students’ lives. This is priceless and I am forever thankful that this profession found me.
When the coronavirus pandemic caused the closure of schools in March, I was deeply worried. I thought about the millions of students who had the school as their safe spaces. Some “escape” to school to be separated from their abusers, some see schools as their access to emancipation etc. Parents, on the other hand, revered educational institutions highly because it made them focus on work. Sadly, all these were grossly altered by the pandemic. The rate of gender-based violence increased exponentially, children were locked down with their violators/abusers, all forms of physical interactions with their fellow students were restricted but the silver lining? Parents became home school tutors during online lessons. They were involved as should be.
No doubts, the pandemic revealed the faulty lines in various systems of the economy and education was not left out. The theme for this year’s celebration is, “Teachers: Leading in Crisis, Reimagining the Future.” In a joint statement from UNESCO, ILO, UNICEF and EDUCATIONAL INTERNATIONAL, it was clearly stated that teachers around the world showed great innovations in ensuring that learning ought not to be disrupted. This is a day to consider listening to the voices of teachers because they are major stakeholders in the realization of a more sustainable world where education is free and accessible to all regardless of gender, background and nationality.
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 4, Quality Education, is a global urgency because of the positive impact education has on the development of any nation. Shaping the future of education largely depends on the quality of trainings and benefit packages being provided for teachers as well as by teachers. During the lockdown, teachers in local communities devised means to include children from ‘underserving’ communities with no access to internet services in lessons. This was to close the gap of inequalities and inequities already caused by the pandemic. Some teachers volunteered to be radio school instructors to reach a wide range of children, even the vulnerable population.
Education in most developing countries is in a sorry state and this does not inspire the desired change. Regardless of the fact that no one prepared for a pandemic, it is clear that the education sector should be much more organized. Teachers should be included at decision making tables that seek to formulate policies on promoting Quality Education. There should also be a statutory budget allocation for the sector which must cover relevant remuneration options to ensure maximal productivity.
More so, it is important to digitize education. The world is now tech-driven and provisions must be made for everyone, everywhere. It no longer makes sense that only those who can afford education, have access to it. The fight to end mediocre approaches towards education is a fight for justice and equality.
Let’s join hands together to create formidable structures for quality education in our local communities, countries and the world at large. Only by doing this, do we reimagine the future – our future.