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THE TORCH BEARERS

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By Salman Ali
Tue, 10, 22

On the occasion of World Teachers’ Day, You! talks to a few teachers and educators…

THE TORCH BEARERS

World Teachers’ Day 2022, also known as International Teachers Day is observed annually on 5th October. This Day has been celebrated since 1994. The aim of this annual event is to honour, celebrate and recognise the contribution and efforts of teachers without whom we would not be who we are today.

The world celebrates this day differently in every part of the world. In Pakistan too, this day is celebrated with much enthusiasm. Mona Leza, a primary teacher based in Khairpur, Sindh, shared, “Every year, World Teachers’ Day gives us the opportunity to celebrate our day, recognise the contributions of teachers and educators and putting a spotlight on the incredible responsibility in ensuring that all children and youth everywhere can enjoy the right to education.”

Mona Leza, a primary teacherbased in Khairpur, Sindh
Mona Leza, a primary teacher
based in Khairpur, Sindh

The education system of Pakistan, in terms of quality teaching and learning, stands in the lowest rank in the world. I have travelled all across Punjab, Sindh and even KP for a research study and I found numerous reasons responsible for this state of affairs. If I talk about Sindh, my findings reveal that teachers are less motivated towards teaching profession, because their appointments, transfers, placements and promotions are decided on nepotism, corruption and political affiliations rather than on merit. Moreover, I found that teachers are overburdened with more classes due to shortage of staff in schools, teachers face shortage of teaching and learning resources in schools, there are fewer professional development opportunities for teachers.

“As teachers, we bear a great responsibility,” highlighted Carol William, a teacher in a private school located in Lahore. “Our work is helping children learn, grow and reach their full potential. We are friends, allies, and mentors with great influence over young minds. The bonds we build in our classrooms often last a lifetime.”

“In our school, on this particular day we organise programmes, projects and activities. Last year, we had a virtual programme ‘Teachers at the Heart of Education Recovery’. Moreover, during the virtual programme, students performed presentations, prepared virtual fun games for teachers, awarded special awards and certificates of appreciation for teachers. The idea was to convey a message that every teacher is important especially in the time of pandemic,” she added.

Sughra Solangi, CEO ofMarvi Rural Development Organisation
Sughra Solangi, CEO of
Marvi Rural Development Organisation

Sughra Solangi, CEO of Marvi Rural Development Organisation stated, “Since 2016, we have been celebrating World Teachers’ Day by hosting a series of talks and workshops designed to support teachers and for their development. This day represents a significant token of awareness, understanding and appreciation displayed for the vital contribution that teachers make to education and development.”

“Teachers are the main players of society and if a country wants to develop their nation, they should focus on their teacher’s development. Promoting quality education is one of the major SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) and all countries are trying to achieve it but without a teachers support, it is impossible. For the development of teachers, the teacher education programmes are the main source so Pakistan’s government should develop the status of their teachers by providing pre and in-services programmes,” she elucidated.

Ali Raza Lashari, a professorin Khairpur, Sindh
Ali Raza Lashari, a professor
in Khairpur, Sindh

Professor Ali Raza Lashari, a motivational speaker and trainer told the scribe, “For me and my colleagues, 2021 was a nightmare because of Covid-19. I have learnt so much in the last year about technology and spent more time in front of the screen than I did in my entire life. I am really happy to be back in the class, with my students sitting in front of me while I teach. How I missed the whiteboard!”

He further shared, “During my school days, my friends and I used to get dressed as our favourite teachers and organise mock classes attended by real teachers. We used to be at our best behaviour while trying to imitate our teachers. It is a fun activity aimed at sparking little humour.”

Having travelled to different districts of Sindh, I noticed that a serious issue is the lack of subject specialist teachers, particularly in English, Math and Science. Teaching quality is also hampered by ineffective pre and in-service teacher training systems. Furthermore, there is weak accountability for teacher performance. An outdated secondary education examination system reinforces poor teaching practices in the classroom. Two issues are of central concern when considering teacher education and training in relation to the status of teachers. The first is that the development of teachers is generally viewed narrowly as ‘training’ rather than more broadly as ‘teacher education’. Training implies the imparting of specific skills that teachers can use on a daily basis. Whilst that is necessary, teacher education is concerned with providing a critical understanding of the social and cultural contexts in which those skills are located so that teachers are able to question, analyse and reflect on their practices.

Teachers’ education, inclusive of training, is necessary for the development of teaching as a profession and the enhancement of the status of teachers. Following this, the second issue is the urgent need to review and update the curriculum of teacher education institutions to make them more relevant to the needs of teachers and more current in terms of international developments in the field of teacher education.

Moreover, the lack of female teachers at all levels also adversely affects girls’ enrolments, especially in rural areas of Sindh. Assessments and standardised tests reveal a lack of mastery of basic skills and competencies at all levels.

A key reason for poor learning levels is an inadequate teaching force. An average teacher qualifications are low and, while a merit-based system for hiring teachers has been introduced, a legacy of non-merit-based teacher appointments remains.

The writer is a social and political activist based in Lahore with a Masters and MPhil in Communication Studies. He can be reached at salmanali088@gmail.com and tweets at Salmani_salu.