Nqobile Nkosi says teaching should be viewed with respect, not as a fallback career when all else fails
My mother always said that I was the one child of nine siblings who preferred colouring books to dolls. In my teenage years I realised how happy I became after explaining something to my fellow classmates. Through such acts and of course my deep interest in the socioeconomic challenges of our country I took up an interest in teaching. It made me realise that we are not yet as free as I had anticipated we would be during my childhood.
It dawned on me after matriculating in 2012 that I long to see a liberated nation where every child is granted quality education, as I believe in equity rather than equality. I believe in ubuntu; that “it takes a village to raise a child”, which is why I aim to play a significant role in raising the children of this country as if they were my own. I want to avail myself and provide them with opportunities I never had, and be the teacher I had always longed for — a true facilitator of the learning process.
Today I am a proud, aspiring, grade nine teacher at Inanda Seminary, and I’m also studying for my third year through Unisa. Each day I wake up to a long day of personal and professional development. I cannot imagine myself doing anything else besides teaching my learners to solve problems through intense engagement, fun and learning.
We, the youth of this country, should be the agents of greater and better change for our nation and it is through the power of quality education that we can achieve this. Teaching is the fundamental building block of other professions, which is why we need young, vibrant, passionate, and hard working teachers. They shouldn’t teach learners specific careers, but rather facilitate the process of learning in order to stimulate critical thinking, and lay a foundation that will create jobs in the future. We need to teach our children to fish rather than hand them fish on a silver platter. We are a generation that needs to be empowered and not fed. Teaching is a form of servant leadership, where the community’s needs come before personal ones, which our nation sorely needs.
There are a number of reasons for the negative perceptions about teaching and why it has lost its glory. Some teachers do not take this profession seriously because it was never their first preference, but rather a fallback plan when all else failed. This has a huge impact, because teachers teach the content and forget about the learners being human, with emotions and different learning styles or abilities. It also accounts for the massive dropout rate in schools; when teachers do not take their profession seriously, nobody else will. The profession is taken for granted because of the low university entry requirements.
It has become the norm to take a Bachelor of Education degree after obtaining a mere 60% average or less in high school. Little emphasis is placed on professional development, the importance of hard work and obtaining great results while studying the profession. It has become acceptable for a teacher to obtain just 50% to qualify to teach, and such teachers and only expect learners to get 40% to pass subjects such as English in matric — thus mediocrity is being enforced by those in positions of authority.
With the inflation rate skyrocketing and the lure of the fast life, many youths choose high paying jobs over teaching. This is an indication of how the media and society at large have embraced the values of money over education. Teaching should be valued as much as engineering — it is of equal or greater importance.