It is the National Teachers’ Day today. The national teachers’ day is an annual occasion to celebrate the teaching profession and to acknowledge those who have been making tireless efforts to help generations of learners realise their talents, hopes and dreams through learning. I take this moment to reflect on this historic day in Botswana.
The teachers through their trade unions fought gallantly for this day to be introduced. The government ultimately gave in and in 1996; the national teachers’ day was introduced. It was first celebrated on the first Thursday of June every year. The teachers through their unions again complained on it being celebrated on a Thursday. The argument being that the following day the teachers are supposed to be at work despite being tired from the preparations and celebrations of the day. It was then changed to the first Saturday of June.
The introduction of the public service act no.30 of 2010 brought in another argument that a Saturday is a rest day for the teachers as is for any other Public officer who is governed by the act. The teacher trade Unions argued that if the day is not changed from Saturday, then a Monday following the national teachers’ day be declared a public holiday for the teachers. The day then ultimately metamorphosed to the first Friday of June. The teachers’ trade unions need to be applauded for this justified cause.
l What does the day have for the teachers?
Since inception of the national teachers’ day, a few selected teachers are given some certificates and medals. The awards recipients are categorised as meritorious awards, silver jubilee etc …During the teachers’ day celebrations, there is a main event, which is termed national teachers day, held at different places of the country rotationally every year. This is where all the awards presentations are done. Otherwise the rest of the teachers have their own organised ‘mini’ teachers’ day celebrations at their respective regions and sub regions through their existing clusters country wide. While this is a welcome development to have a day set aside to recognise and award the outstanding teachers, I feel that that there is a lot that can be done to make the celebrations more meaningful and beneficial to the teachers.
l Decentralise the celebrations.
In order to have the teachers have a complete and direct ownership for the day, let it be organised and celebrated at regional level. Let those who have been nominated to get the awards do so at their respective regions. This will save the costs and the teachers will not have to travel thousands of kilometres to go and get a medal and a certificate. The regional offices will take a full responsibility of the organisation of the teachers’ day. The apathy that currently exists of the celebration of this day by the teachers will be solved. This could be attributed to the fact that the attention is only on the so called ‘National Celebrations’ which involve even the regional personnel across the country. The rest of the teachers are left to ’fend’ for themselves for the clusters teachers’
l Let the awards include Monetary benefit as well
The teachers are faced with many challenges in their day to day work. That rare skill of unearthing, nurturing and producing a well-rounded child from pre Primary and Primary Schools, Secondary schools up to tertiary level deserve a high recognition. A token of appreciation of as little as say P5, 000 once off to start with for all the awards recipients will go a long way to boast the moral of the teachers. This will also create a competition among the teachers to work very hard to be eligible to be nominated for the awards.
l By being the recipients of the awards mean that those teachers are outstanding. These teachers must therefore be considered for positions of responsibilities and further training to further recognise their invaluable service they have rendered and still do to the nation. They have showed that they are not ordinary teachers. They are exceptional so they ought to be treated likewise.
l Introduce a Special Education award
The teachers who offer special education need recognition as well. These teachers offer some rare and unique services to our disadvantaged members of our society. Were it not to them, some sections of our society would be left behind is as far as education is concerned.
As a nation we were not going to achieve our national principle of education for all. I need not overemphasise the challenges that the teachers who offer special education face. They therefore deserve a special recognition for they offer education to the exceptional students.
In conclusion I challenge the government as the main employer of the teachers to capacitate fully all the teachers on ICT. When that has been done then ICT be introduced as a core subject in all our public schools as soon as possible. That as a country we still have some students who complete their secondary school education while they do not have the basic computer training is an eyesore. The rapid growth of the internet and technology must be fully utilised so that teaching and learning continue even outside the classroom walls.
The ever growing availability of online learning material like video, audio, massive open online university courses and teachers’ lesson plans as well as the rise of newer learning formats such as online tutoring has caused a true democratisation of teaching and learning with the potential to provide access to high quality education for all. We cannot afford to be left behind as a country in this regard in the 21st century.
I send out my heartfelt congratulations to all the teachers in our country.
Happy National Teachers Day Comrades!
Comrade Solomon .M. Batsietswe
(DSE: TCE 2002)