October 5 was World Teachers’ day and in Uganda where a teacher is instrumental in laying the foundation stone and building the future citizen, the day was worth celebrating with commitment to positive discipline that will enable our learners achieve the best from school.
Also known as the International Day for Teachers, it was first celebrated in 1994 to commemorate the adoption of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recommendation on the status of teachers. This was in regard to the teachers’ rights and responsibilities as well as standards for the preparation, recruitment and learning conditions.
The 2019 celebration is grounded on the theme “Young teachers: the future of the profession.” Unfortunately, the teaching profession, noble as it has always been, will never create a wider impact as long as we still have a few teachers who abuse the rights of the children.
As teachers, young or old, we ought to avoid putting scars on the hearts and brains of these children by not physically, emotionally and sexually abusing them. Instead, we need to create an equal opportunity and an enabling environment for the learners to feel free and empowered to learn, discover, share expectations, experiences, challenges and make informed decision. Also, ending gender stereotypes will enable both girls and boys to freely pursue their dreams.
Let us stop using abusive words on the children, particularly in the classroom as it affects their self-esteem, thereby slowing down their learning process. The application of all forms of corporal punishments such as beating must end now. Male teachers should respect the bodies of the female learners.
Teachers should never engage in any sexual relationships since it is their human right not to be used as sexual objects. A male teacher should never ever claim that the young girl initiated and seduced him into such a relationship. That is because she is a minor and the older one is expected to guide on what is right or wrong.
Remember it is the right of every child to graduate from school with literacy and numeracy skills, meaning it is the responsibility of teachers to build a happy, confident and healthy individual who will be able to emotionally bloom and have confidence to demand their rights.
Together we can end school-related gender-based violence to reduce the number of school dropouts, if we create a safe environment free of physical, emotional or sexual violence for children, protect them from early and underage pregnancies, HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections.
As a result, given all the love and trust these children have for their teachers, they will be able to emulate their teachers’ behaviour towards children and will treat the next generation with respect. Meanwhile, as shall become fountains of honour in our schools and communities.
For teachers, the above will garner them respect from their professional colleagues, the learners, their parents and the community at large. Such a legacy created can never be washed away even by the fastest floods.
Barack H. Obama, the former president of the United States of America once said: “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.”
Furthermore, in his 2011 book, “1,001 Pearls of Teachers’ Wisdom: Quotations on Life and Learning”, Erin Gruwell, notes that Helen Caldicott, an Australian physician, author, and activist asserted that teachers “are the most responsible and important members of society because their professional efforts affect the fate of the earth.” Similarly, Lederer. R in the 2011 A tribute to teachers: Wit and Wisdom Information and Inspiration About Those Who Change Our Lives” quoted America’s Andy Rooney, saying, “most of us end up with no more than five or six people who remember us. Teachers have thousands of people who remember them for the rest of their lives.”
Most importantly, given all the love and trust these children have for their teachers, they will be able to emulate their teachers’ behaviour towards children and will treat the next generation with respect. Meanwhile, we shall become fountains of honour in our schools and communities.
The author is a behaviour change communications officer at Save the Children, Uganda Country Program.