Requiem for a Noble Profession

The teaching profession deserves the adjective ‘noble’. which is why we usually hear people defining it as a noble profession. For those of us who are older, our thoughts go back to perhaps the first village school, most likely the schools run by the clergy assisted by monitors, where the senior ones try to teach junior and fresh students. In my case, there were several of them near and around Bale Wold, itself a school, in the proximity of the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

But the nobel profession should be utilised at home. If teaching is like opening a door of darkness on a hall without windows or a torch light, then there is no one better fit for it than a mother. Let us think about our own childhoods. From the time we are infants to the moment we become toddlers, our parents take turns teaching us to learn the simple lessons of life.

Mothers, in particular, take the lion’s share of the job by caring for the child especially when the baby gets sick or feels hungry. This commitment or dedication of a mother to help her child grow and learn how to eat or walk by one’s self is nothing but noble. Thus, the teaching profession deservedly earns the adjective noble.

But this does not come cheap.

Today’s teachers are trained on how to go about their profession. Hence the need to establish schools that teach teachers, like Kotebe Metropolitan University, the former Kotebe College of Teacher Education. Here, reading and writing exercises serve as the bed rocks of the whole building of knowledge. Just as bricks need to be piled over bricks in order to build a house that is structurally firm, the training of teachers is essential.

There was a time when teachers were respected not only by their students but also by their respective parents. Teachers were expected to reprimand students. Parents held them answerable to any folly their children may have committed in disregard to or in violation of the rules and regulations. Punishments like kneeling down or digging some earth for a day or two, seemingly harsh punishments for children of today, were prerogatives given to teachers. Nonetheless, teachers were respected and beloved by their students despite all of these.

More importantly, students – owing either to the teacher’s authoritative nature, relatively cleaner shirt or a wide grasp of knowledge – wanted to grow up to become teachers. Even parents chose to give their daughter’s hand in marriage to people of such profession. This phenomenon is still pronounced in schools in rural provinces.

Nonetheless, today’s students want nothing of the profession, often preferring to grow up to become either doctors or pilots. Similarly, parents would often challenge teachers on their choice of punishment or the way they decided to give lessons on subjects.

I once faced such an experience while I was teaching at the Prince Makonnen School in Gara Muleta district.

An angry parent came to school, disturbing the buildings where classes were going on, saying “who was the teacher who took the law into his hands in a free country such as this to punish my son by making him kneel down”.

She had an old stick in her hand and was about to use it if not for the timely intervention of good samaritans who made her calm down. These kinds of reactions are not uncommon in today’s world where teachers are not valued as much as they should be. Parents care less that their children are notorious, as that may point to their own lack of parenting skills, but the conduct of the teachers.

Now that it has been established by researchers and various studies that the role of mothers and teachers in shaping up children and youth to become valuable citizens is immense, and thus the profession of teaching is noble, it is important to ask if teaching is given enough attention by the government and society.

I am afraid the answer is no. Science and technology have taken over every conversation and the teaching profession has become obsolete. It has been thrown to the dogs. It serves mainly as an alternate source of income for people who want to make money on the side or could not get other employment opportunities.

And when those few who want to teach and share their knowledge come, they are not at all respected by their students. Students rarely want to learn, but simply to pass exams. They prefer teachers that are willing to give good grades than the ones that want to imbue their pupils with awareness.

As a result, gifted minds who want to pursue this noble profession are leaving their countries in search of platforms where they could better share information. There are many Ethiopian experts at the National Aeronautics & Space Agency (NASA), or in other institutions and universities around the world, that have left their country in search of better students. Hence, contributing to the lack of an educated work force the nation continues to suffer from.

By Girma Feyissa

Published on Sep 02,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 905]



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