In Summary

But then again: why is it that only teachers are in this predicament? One rarely reads about other civil servants clamouring for outstanding dues.

As far as I can recall, teachers are always owed payment arrears of one sort or other, including salary increments on promotion, annual salary rises, transfer allowances, etc. – with the government perpetually checking the validity of their claims. It is a never-ending vicious cycle.

Will the day ever come when teachers will have no more unpaid claims?

But then again: why is it that only teachers are in this predicament? One rarely reads about other civil servants clamouring for outstanding dues. It is important to ‘diagnose’ this seemingly endless problem so that it is effectively remedied.

Is it because teachers are many in numbers? I wish I could accept this reasoning. But I think there is a need to determine why there are perpetual problems regarding teachers’ rightful dues. Teachers are our frontline soldiers in fighting ignorance. In my medical career, I spent a lot of time researching malaria, especially in village primary schools, where I learnt a lot about teachers.

Over the years, I was able to get glimpses into the complexity of the role of teachers, and the challenges they face.

Commitment and sincerity

I observed over time that their commitment and sincerity were very moving. This is especially in regard to their difficult working conditions and the constraints they routinely faced.

There is a sizeable proportion of teachers who – despite the constraints they have to put up with – do remarkable work through their personal initiative and ingenuity; teachers who do a good job when given support and the right environment.

We need good educational curricula, infrastructure and administration.

But, even when all these are lacking, good and committed teachers still battle it out at the educational frontline, making a big different in determining the success of our education. After all, it is education that shapes our society.

Unfortunately, we have over the past few decades systemically undervalued and under-invested in teachers. How can we have good education if we ignore the importance of teachers? We refer to father of the nation as MWALIMU (Julius Nyerere), yet we treat our teachers in a desultory manner.

If we want to improve our education, it is essential to have multiple interventions – starting with revisiting our teachers’ education system which prepares teachers for their future role. A poorly trained teacher will always be a below-average teacher. Thus, we need to evaluate teacher training and make the necessary improvements.

Continuous education

Then there is the question of continuous education for teachers. Since technology is rapidly changing, so should also teaching methodologies. Teachers need to upgrade their skills on a continuous basis. Is this being done in Tanzania today?

We must also stop blaming teachers for all the ills in our education sector. We must instead accord them their rightful status in society-as the architects and developers of a noble society. Teachers must be empowered, trusted, respected and supported.

Perhaps this requires a cultural revolution in our education system and society at large.

Instead of addressing their calls for help over the years, we have sat idly as taxpayer funds are shifted out of public schools and into the coffers of private entities: organizations that operate with impunity and under no guarantee that children are receiving the education they need to become successful contributors in society.

Quality education is important for all communities. Public school teachers need to know that they do matter.

As a product of public education, I understand and share this vision. Supporting public education by working alongside those who tirelessly work to produce our future leaders, healthcare professionals, elected officials and social service providers should be a priority.

We must fight for educators – providing them with fair remuneration, appropriate working tools and other resources used in educating, empowering and inspiring our youth.

Teachers deserve to be saluted every day for their courage, commitment and strength.

Capacity and motivation

Tanzania’s progress will be determined by the capacity and motivation of all those at the frontline in all fields of human development. We must invest in, and value, all those at the frontline.

We have not been doing this in earnest, so we must change sooner than later.

We must do everything that is humanly possible to make our country more just, equitable, humane and sustainable.