The Next Generation

I was listening to a 'Voice of America' podcast that was speaking on education in South Africa and the changes that they want to implement in the curriculum.  Then in the introduction the man being interviewed was speaking about how he had visited a local primary school. He went to a classroom and asked the students, "How many of you want to be teachers?" and no one raised their hand, there was utter silence in the room.

The truth of the matter is teachers are paid peanuts, especially teachers in Africa.  Public primary schools suffer with horrendous ratios of teachers and students: One teacher can be assigned to more than 60 students and there are some cases of up to 100 students per teacher in rural areas!  How can one have that one-on-one relationship with a student?  Then there are several schools in absurd conditions; some have not been maintained for decades and others are constituted as gatherings under a tree. The teacher is only a teacher because he managed to finish a high school education and that was the only employment opportunity at the time. So you have a teacher under miserable conditions with no access to supplies such as books.

Do we value the heroes and heroines who implement our education system? Why do I call them heroes and heroines? On average, a child is exposed to an institution at the age of 5 years old. Hence, the teacher has more time with a child than their own parents and as a result, many parents expect them to teach children responsibility and instill discipline.They expect the teacher to help them learn about rules, general knowledge and  everyday transactions in life. Let's be honest, some parents are relieved when their children start school. So they may drop off their offspring as they figure out other important issues, such as where dinner will come from that night.

In Kenya, teachers have been fighting for over 20 years to have a salary increase and finally it was passed. But now we meet another problem, where will this money come from?  There is already talk that the increment cannot be afforded, but we can pour millions into security, sadly even building a wall that will separate Somalia and Kenya. Which prompts the question, do we really treasure our children? We need to realize that teachers play a vital role in moulding our youth. If teachers are respected, their role encouraged and nurtured, they would show urgency in teaching and children will emulate what is closest to them: The Next Generation.

What we have are youth entering the workforce and searching for a short cut to climb the financial ladder. We value institutional education at a time when it cannot sustain our numbers, then find members of the workforce who do not know how to write a simple letter. However, when we are spending millions of government funds on protecting ourselves through security, we are protecting ourselves from these same youth where education was a lie.

Nerima Wako

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