The Status of African Teachers

In a report made by UNESCO entitled Teachers and Teaching in a Changing World the following statement is made:

“The communication and information revolution currently underway reinforces this need. New technologies are bringing the different peoples of the world closer together, helping them to become more aware of their common humanity and shared concerns and hopes for the future. At the same time, these technologies accentuate divisions both within and between societies, between those who are able to utilize them for the enrichment of their cultural, social, economic and political lives and those who are unable to do so because of poverty or lack of the necessary knowledge and skills. Without a greater commitment to education on the part of governments and society at large, these divisions will widen further.”

This paragraph points out an important paradox in modern society. It is that the fast evolution of new technologies threatens to make the divisions within societies, and also within the world greater not less. Because of the high tech revolution young people are more vulnerable than ever before to being left behind.

There is more to teach now than there was 50 years ago. Such is the march of knowledge. We know more now; and we understand better the complexity of physics, biology, economics, psychology, medicine and so on. This means we need better teachers than ever before to impart this new information to the upcoming generations. The internet of course has an important part to play in education especially in areas of Africa where there are few specialized teachers, being able to access educational resources from sites like the BBC is invaluable –

We are not at the stage where teachers can be replaced by machines. It is interesting to note how YouTube has proliferated thanks in no small measure to its ‘how to’ videos. This is clear proof of the importance of the human touch when it comes to education.

Clearly the best way to get the best teachers is to afford teachers a high status in the community. This must be backed up with the best teaching resources and suitable remuneration. It is clear that the more a society values its teachers, the more the most talented people are going to aspire to being teachers. This is a dynamic that can be seen throughout history.

It is interesting to note that during the Cultural Revolution in China students were encouraged to hate their teachers and to distrust the intelligentsia. The result of this revolution was a dearth for many years of teachers, scientists and technicians. China depended on the Soviet Union for its technology until 1960 when the alliance between the 2 countries was dissolved. It was not until the 1990s that China became equal to the rest of the world in its ability to manufacture such things as TVs, fridges and farm machinery. Today, in China teachers are venerated as they have been traditionally. This will ensure China continues to grow as an economic powerhouse.

It is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of teachers and the status they should be accorded. They are the custodians of the future.