World Teachers’ Day is held annually on 5 October to celebrate all teachers around the globe. It commemorates the anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers, which sets benchmarks regarding the rights and responsibilities of teachers, and standards for their initial preparation and further education, recruitment, employment, and teaching and learning conditions.
UNESCO says one and a half years into the COVID-19 crisis, the 2021 World Teachers’ Day will focus on the support teachers need to fully contribute to the recovery process under the theme “Teachers at the heart of education recovery”.
Teachers are the backbone of any economy because they play a crucial role in shaping the fortunes of any country because of the impartation of knowledge into the population.
It is why the theme is appropriately coined to focus on recovering the education system from the ravages of COVID-19.
In Zambia, this is even more critical because of the many factors that affect the education sector beyond the COVID.
Long before the pandemic hit, the education sector was struggling with issues of insufficient teachers in schools.
The few employed teachers have had to contend with having in excess of 40 pupils in a single classroom, which makes for very difficult conditions.
Beyond this, teachers have had to make do with a poor working environment, especially in rural areas, where having half-decent accommodation for them is a privilege.
But having poor accommodation only adds to the agony of conducting lessons in makeshift classrooms and or open-air class sessions in the absence of infrastructure.
To top it all off, the teacher unions have made it clear in the past that the civil service pay that teachers get is inadequate what with the continued rise in the cost of living.
The Professional Teachers Union of Zambia (PROTUZ) called for a favourable business environment
to allow teachers make extra money to enhance their monthly income.
PROTUZ director public relations and international affairs Brian Mwila suggested that Government should make favourable business conditions in the Small Scale and Medium Enterprises ministry to allow teachers to participate entrepreneurial activities.
If the teachers are indispensible to the country and the world at large, it is time to pay a bit more attention to their welfare.
It is not just about improving the emoluments, it is also about ensuring their working environment that motivates them every morning to show up and give their best.
They should also be treated as frontline workers and provided with some sort of allowance in this COVID era because of the risks they are taking in their work.
The pandemic does not look like it’s going away anytime soon and as such, steps must be taken to ensure we do not lose the already few educators that we have.
More protective wear, sanitizing material and a campaign to have all teachers vaccinated should go a long way to keeping teachers safe.
We hope all teachers had a memorable day. You are well appreciated.