The New Times (Kigali)

8 October 2013

Rwanda: Would You Take Up Teaching As Your First Choice Vocation?

What makes a teacher good? Is it in their intelligence having aced their days in school? Or are there some specific ingredients that make teachers impart worthy knowledge in students? Collins Mwai looks into the rating of teachers and answers the question of why most people who don't excel in class end up making it in life as good teachers and why if you can read this, you should thank a teacher;-

We like our teachers pure, we like them consumed by their cause. If you are among those who take your children to them for 'sharpening', we like them selfless and worth of the term 'role models'. If you are among those who go to them for lessons, you like them understanding and 'cool' to let us skip a few lessons without dire consequences.

Sam-Ryan-Tuyizere.

With education being termed as the way out of poverty and leading toward development the task entrusted to teachers by parents, the government and the society at large is not only huge but a delicate one. The competence of the current and future generations lies in the hands of these men and women.

Though faced with a huge task of empowering learners, there have been questions of their competence in the role as the qualifications to join the profession are not very high and only lock out few. The saying 'teaching is a calling' has also been questioned variously as some end up in the profession not out of choice but because of lack of an alternative.

Daniel Nzayisenga, a student at Kigali Institute of Education pursuing a combination of Kinyarwanda, English and Education, is one of them. He says he joined the course not so much out of choice but rather because his grades and a scholarship led him there.

Nicholas-Kizza

"After high school I was admitted to this institute to pursue education. Although I didn't like it much when I first began, it is beginning to grow in me and probably by the time I am through I will like it more," Nzayisenga said.

Nzayisenga is of the opinion that the profession has witnessed tremendous changes in some aspects and probably scared away some who might have had interest.

"Teachers these days are different from teachers a while back. Back in the day, teachers were better; they were more committed to their work and it was reflected in their students' performance but most of them have slackened nowadays. It could probably be the low pay these days," he said.

Emmanuel-Mbonabucya.

Dr Alfred Otara, the dean of the education faculty at the institue, says the problem of poor remuneration amongst teachers could soon change as governments in the region are being sensitised to raise teachers' remuneration.

"In most of the countries in the world, teachers are not well paid, that is one of the factors that have been discouraging people from the profession. When people are trained, some get into it because they want the job but soon after they discover they are not making as much money as their counterparts in other sectors, they opt to leave," he said.

On the question of whether teachers are qualified to empower learners considering that some of them performed averagely in school, Dr Otara figures that teaching being a calling, good grades don't necessarily dictate that one will make a good teacher.

Kamikazi-Ishimwe

"The thought that one necessarily needs good grades to be a good teacher is somewhat erroneous. Anyone can make good grades, but what you become after is more important. Very bright people who make very good grades may not end up becoming good teachers," he said.

"They assume learners are supposed to know so many things and yet teachers are supposed to move with the learners'pace to have an impact on them. Very bright teachers fall short during sharing of knowledge; they are mostly a step ahead of the learners."

What he means here is that teaching is probably more about talent than education qualifications.

Dhalia-Nyirantagorama

Another common trend amongst members of the profession is that of teachers heading back to school for further academic qualifications. Diploma holders are in pursuit of degrees and degree holders want a higher academic qualification.

Dr Otara says the trend could be that people are eager to learn and there is also a motivation.

"Education is now liberalised, people want to upgrade. There is also a promise of social mobility and the expectation that one will be able to fit better in the job market. The governments are also raising expectations of the teachers."

Dr Otara says some also head back to school to prepare themselves for bigger responsibilities.

"It is good career progress when one moves up having gained experience in other ranks," he adds.

More training

Elia Gasarabge, a Primary One teacher at Groupe Scholari Gicumbi in Eastern Province, with more than 13 years experience in front of class, has now switched roles to become a student.

"I went to a Teachers' Training College and after working for more than a decade, I have decided to return to school. I want to further my career and may be move from teaching at primary level to high school level. Going back to school doesn't necessarily mean I will leave the profession," says the teacher, who is pursuing a degree in business management.

He cites low pay as challenge that most teachers face.

"Few people want to become teachers because the poor pay does not encourage them. If teachers were better remunerated, there would probably be more people aspiring to be teachers and fewer complaints about the whole profession in general," Gasarabge says.

Some still do prefer teaching for a profession since the knowledge gained can be utilised elsewhere. Some learners figure that if the profession doesn't grow in them, they can easily shift to something they like. This is among the things that Dr Otara tells his students, "as a teacher you gather a lot of information and teachers are curious to know. This attitude make them fit easily into other professions. That is why teachers easily excel in business and other professions," Dr Otara says.

Noella Ahad falls in the category of those who consider moving on to something else once they feel education is not their piece of cake. The first year student at the faculty of languages didn't choose the profession, rather it chose her.

"I didn't choose to do teaching. I am still waiting for it to grow in me but the good thing it is broad enough that if it doesn't, I can move elsewhere to probably interpreting or journalism. Most people are afraid of the profession because you have to deal with restless young children who tend to seem less interested," Ahad says.

Though probably not as lucrative and prestigious as it was in the past, the role of the profession is still important and as necessary as it was in the past. There have been several emerging trends coming from technological changes and social values, teachers too have to adjust themselves to handle the changing times as Dr Otara tells his students.

"Teaching is not just about standing in class and talking, it is more than that it is how you disseminate information."

Sam Ryan Tuyizere, producer. 'Teaching is a calling it requires one to have it at heart, otherwise if you are looking for quick ways to get rich then forget it. It is one of the least paying jobs and yet it requires full-time commitment. They have to work extra hard.'

Nicholas Kiza, parent and video editor. 'Because of the myths that come with being a teacher, like saying teachers are poor, I would not advise my kid to take that path. I am grateful to my teachers though for the knowledge they passed on to me.'

Emmanuel Mbonabucya, electrical firm. 'We acquire knowledge to build our nation through teachers. However, I wouldn't advise any of my relatives to take it on as a career. Every parent wants to see their child living happily but teacher's world over are poor.'

Kamikazi Ishimwe, Student and artiste. 'It's not a matter of recommendation or advice, because teaching involves sharing knowledge and thus needs someone passionate about it. I can't take it on but I wouldn't stop anyone to teach if that is what they yearn.'

Dhalia Nyirantagorama, mother. 'I would definitely recommend my child to take on the teaching career, simply because a teacher is a helper and society needs such people to develop.'

Compiled by S. Kwihangana

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