Can Tanzanian teachers still teach?

29Jan 2016
The Guardian
Can Tanzanian teachers still teach?

TEACHERS are the first set of people who give a child a sense of self or validation outside of the home. If they are successful at imparting their knowledge and building a child's confidence in his or her abilities, or in encouraging a child to pursue certain skills or even dreams, then they would have had a positive impact on that child's life.

Teachers give a 'farewell message' to the former President Jakaya Kikwete

Unfortunately, too few Tanzania teachers fall into this category of individuals who are driven by a sense of purpose, a desire to leave children, if not the world, better than they found them. How could our Tanzanian teachers have this sense of responsibility, in a country that cares so little for them, where salaries are negligible if paid at all?
There is probably no other profession in our country today that is as undervalued as that of teaching. However, if the majority of people in Tanzania had access to quality education (especially at the primary school level) our country would be markedly different.

Teaching, like almost everything else in Tanzania, has become an all-comers affair where people with neither the qualifications nor the abilities find themselves as they search for something to occupy their time till something better comes along.

They cope with the poor salaries and their overall humble circumstance, in some cases by taking out their frustrations on their pupils or by entering into some immoral arrangements with parents. Situations whereby teachers accept "gifts" from parents in order to guarantee a child's success are not unheard of.

The educator, like the journalist, is available for purchase and the society itself is a garage sale where everything can be bought at a discount, even those people or things which were once the backbone of the social order.

So, if today our country and its people seem mostly corrupt and aimless, we must go back to our classrooms to figure out how we can help teachers retrieve their enthusiasm and to see their job as a calling rather than a dead end.

Teaching in the 21st century is about engaging an audience, bringing a subject to life and challenging even the most apathetic student to think critically and see the world differently rather than rehashing old debates or stereotypes.

We are afraid that no amount of reform can magically change the Tanzanian teacher into something he hasn't been trained or even himself been taught to be, by other teachers, as a young person.

When will we reform Tanzanian education as a whole? What impact do we believe teachers should have on students? What sort of people do we believe this society needs: yes-men and ethno-religious bigots or inquisitive non-conformists who can re-assess the status quo?

What will be the new norms of the Tanzanian society and how are educators, the police and journalists being prepped to teach, enforce and communicate them? How do we go about training our teachers to find a raison d'être beyond simply preparing students for the workforce? Can education in Tanzania be about socio-cultural development and preparing our youth not just for work but for life

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