Attributing “real” teachers on World Teachers Day (October 5) is a question of probing the very “reality” part of teachers. While teachers-turned-proprietors of money-minting educational business at private academies and coaching centers and highly remunerated subject specialists at elitist and professional institutions represent only a handful of teachers, the socio-economic conditions of our teaching majority tragically speaks volumes for itself.
Imagine teacher as symbols of dignity, social counselors, overall and specific development specialists, advisors and policy-makers. Believe teaching is the most sacred of all professions carrying divine inspiration, cover and protection. Accept teaching is the most demanding career in terms of selflessness, commitment and sacrifice. See a teacher is not merely a routine teacher but the maker of leading professionals and personalities. Realize a teacher is a mentor of society and an architect of the nation.
The fact that Islam attaches significant importance to teachers and teaching which has an over-whelming moral, social, educational, scientific and technological influence over humanity needs no introduction. The sanctity of teaching reflects from the reality that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was the teacher of mankind and that Masjid-e-Nabvi was not only a place of worship but also the first Islamic University.
Have we ever and sincerely thought as to why teaching is an able, noble, humble and gentle profession? Teachers have more responsibility than any other person in a society. Parents send their nearest and dearest ones to them with such expectations that it becomes a test of their professional honesty and social reputation. The ideal task, entrusted with our teachers, is to educate and train the young nation for a brighter future. They have to adhere to institutional decorum and duties as required. They have their own children to attend, family responsibilities to cater and social problems to negotiate with limited time and resources. While a doctor, an engineer, an accountant, an architect and alike may all be renowned professionals, teachers are teachers of all professionals and architects of the entire nation.
Be it a government policy matter or a media projection priority or a common drawing room talk education in general and dignity of the teaching profession in particular occupy a comparatively far lesser position in terms of emphasis, coverage and discussion. True that current affair, crimes, sports, showbiz, scandals and all are highly worth emphasizing because they are the reflection of a society. But education is regarded as pre-requisite to a welfare society merely through lip-service and teachers are considered as drop-outs from the so-called social status.
While some teachers-turned-proprietors of the money-minting educational business at private academies and coaching centers and as highly remunerated subject specialists at elitist and professional institutions represent only a handful of teachers, the social and financial condition of teaching majority tragically speaks volumes for itself.
Imagine the teacher of a nation laboring from dawn to dusk for not even a hand-to-mouth living starting from dawn, it may take many a couple of hours to reach college, hanging on the wagon’s footboard or standing all the way and seldom getting a seat on a tiring journey before a tedious day. He reaches home at dust mostly due to extra time at work before embarking on the suffocating and marathon return trip. Even teacher with motorcycles reach home late night due to helpless tuitions and hardly have time to talk to children because they are first accountable to the Home Ministry!
Generally, teachers’ income is so meager that many have to take tiring tuitions; otherwise they would not have money for medical treatment during illness or emergency. Besides hand-to-mouth living and lack of transport and healthcare, majority of our teachers are under severe, constant and helpless pressure to pay the mounting house rent.
The psychological pressure worsens when a poor teacher has to seek loans to cater such indispensable needs as food, clothing, shelter, transport and Medicare. The financial condition may aggravate in the wake of honor and prestige-related social compulsions as eidis, gifts, presents and hospitality. The obvious results are telling on mental and physical health of our teachers, mentors of the nation.
It is a dishonor to wish one’s children to be teachers and teaching remains the last if not the dying options in career-making. It is said that misfits or drop-outs from education, careers and social status adopt teaching as a last resort. It is an unfortunate fact that teaching, the most important of all professions in moral, social and economic development of society, is looked down upon as a disgrace. As a result there is moral, social and economic bankruptcy amid vociferous alarms of sheer helplessness with experts trying and failing to rectify the situation with outdated methods.
The deteriorating conditions of the teaching profession are largely due to continued non-seriousness, lopsided priorities, lack of planning, paucity of funds and mismanagement at the helm of affairs. In the private sector educators-turned-proprietors fleece poor parents with rocketing tuition fee, cry wolf over institutional costs and squeeze everything out of the poor and helpless teachers for peanuts of a pay.
However, the worst problem is that the vicious circle of negative thinking in which a teacher may be trapped in forming such die-hard thinking and habit that confirm the status quo about the sorry state of teaching. It is immobilization and procrastination in avoiding the brighter side and working towards the dignity of teaching. Seldom has anybody on earth been rewarded anything on a silver platter and as such, moral and material success for teachers has to be achieved in a truly dignified manner.
Unless there is a sincere will to make dignity of teaching a top national policy matter, stereotype measures in teachers’ emancipation towards nation-building will not work. Until there is moral and material regard for teachers, the developmental perspective shall continue to echo merely with empty words. Unless teacher’s dignity is enhanced as a mass awareness drive and it becomes a question of media credibility and until people are inspired to take teaching with aptitude and respect, status quo in moral, social and economic bankruptcy will persist. Let us come out of our shell and look the glorious Islamic principles and see positive side of developed societies towards dignity of teaching.
The writer contributes to media on national and international affairs.