Teachers on their toes

Government school teachers are expected to be present every day and also ensure presence of their students -- something that requires no less than a magic wand

Teachers on their toes

Teachers are a child’s first contact with the world outside his family and the people with whom he spends major part of his day. Children learn to sit, hold pencil in their fingers and write -- all from a teacher. Teachers influence young people’s minds and hearts and have a significant role in shaping their personality.

An ideal teacher has full command of the subject, has the ability to convey the knowledge, evoke children’s interest in the subject and hold their attention, is update and innovative -- a person his pupils are happy to see. This is possible if they are committed to making their students understand the concept of whatever they are teaching. They are kind and patient. This is how a highly respected senior government school teacher and a headmaster view an ideal teacher.

A teacher education specialist from Canada who was in Pakistan a few years back, said, "Children today will eventually leave school to enter jobs which are not there -- to work on technologies which are not yet invented. The teachers’ job is to prepare children for that. Though a very difficult job, that’s the job at hand."

A government school teacher has to take seven out of eight classes on average every day. There are over 50 children on an average in a classroom. A government school teacher is given 4-6 subjects to teach as he/she is expected to know every subject. This is the situation of teachers teaching up till class 8.

Does he get time to prepare his lectures? When does he check the written work of his students? These are some of the questions that come to mind.

In good private schools in the country, teachers take 24 classes in a week. A seasoned teacher says it is difficult for a teacher to do justice to his job with more than 4 classes in a day. Children are undisciplined till class 8 and they keep interrupting from time to time which increases the stress on the teacher. A child would come up to the teacher to get permission to have water or go to washroom when he is in the middle of explaining something, causing disruption in his flow of thought but the teacher has to bear it all with good humour, not losing his focus.

In Pakistan, teachers’ job does not end at teaching. They are asked to go from door to door in the area where their school is, for survey of out of school children -- to bring them to school. Government has special focus on enrollment but many children do not return after summer vacations for several reasons.

Teachers are not allowed to even fine or scold the students. They don’t have a magic wand to discipline children. Teachers are entitled to 25 holidays as per government rules. They don’t even take 10 in a year because the Education department demands 100 per cent teacher and student attendance, says a headmistress of a school in Lahore. There is no UPS in schools. When there is power breakdown, it becomes unbearable for both children and teachers to stay in class and continue coaching and learning but they cope with this. Can the government see to it that all the schools get UPS in future?

One good step that the government has taken in Punjab is opening of a joint account from where the headteacher can draw money for the school with the discretion of school council members. The amount of money will vary from school to school. It is expected that money will be transferred in these accounts next month.

It’s shocking to see the headteacher sign work plan registers of all the sections of all the classes with no time to go through the plan. There are no coordinators like they have in private schools to share the workload at administration level. There is one teacher per 40 students in a school. This is called government’s rationalisation policy. When the number of teacher increases in a school, the first to be transferred is a young teacher. There is a school with only one science teacher while there should be at least two in every school, according to a senior head mistress.

A headteacher from Lahore says when a teacher is promoted his/her next posting is never in Lahore. If the teacher does not join within 15 days of promotion his/her promotion is cancelled.

The rules are very strict for teachers, rather baffling.

A headteacher was held for poisonous dengue spray in a school in Jhang district last month. Isn’t Health department responsible here? "Shouldn’t the government specify what to spray if it is to hold the headteacher responsible for it," asks a headmistress.

Teachers Union Punjab (Muttahida Mahaz-e-Asataza) demands an end to all non-teaching assignments for teachers. They are assigned duties in elections, in polio drops administration, anti-dengue campaign, at official functions to add to numbers etc. The union demands from the government to "leave the teachers to teach, put an end to all non-teaching activities." It is protesting consistently since April 2015 for the rights of teachers. It demands from the government to make a think-tank of retired teachers and make a new policy. "Foreign road maps cannot address our issues," says a senior office-bearer of the union.

Earlier, teachers’ pays were revised when they acquired more education and degrees. This was put to an end in 2001.

Till 2013-14 teachers got 75 per cent rebate in tax. This rebate has been reduced to 40 per cent in 2014-15.

A good number of primary teachers are now M.A/M.Sc and M.Phil but still in Grade 9. They should get at least Grade 14.

According to teachers, government teachers’ salaries hurt everyone. The pressures they go through are overlooked. The policy is to promote all children to the next class. And then expect quality education from teachers and headteachers. They are answerable for everything, they say.

Headteachers receive directives from different sources. There are no clear instructions, they say. The messages are not consolidated. the Text Book Board, EDOs, teachers, examiners who do assessment, the Directorate of Staff Development -- should all give one message and that is the responsibility of the Secretary Education Department to see to it.

Messages from teachers

"There should be one curriculum in the country. The most important thing is to put an end to different education systems for different classes. A child who cannot speak English develops inferiority complex though he may be very intelligent otherwise. English is a handicap. We all understand things better in mother language. Teach children in mother tongue from class 1-5."

"We observe a day for them but we should show respect to teachers. Show it through action. They stand in queues to pay their bills and buy the ticket. There are countries where they make way for the teacher, leave seats for them in buses."

"For a teacher, getting medical facilities is an uphill task. The procedure is tedious. Make it simple. Reimbursement of medical bills is only for those who are admitted in hospital. The rest cannot claim payment of doctor’s bill."

"In this country policeman, patwari, those in excise and taxation department or anyone with a nuisance value are given far more weight than a teacher. A teacher would rather not introduce himself as a teacher. This is a society that considers teachers the most dishonest people. Please, trust teachers."

"Teachers are treated like any other government employee. They deserve better treatment."