Honour Thy Teachers

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Dr Sarala Krishnamurthy

When Chinua Achebe, one of the foremost scholars of the African continent and the father of the African novel, declared in his collection of critical essays “Morning yet on Creation Day”, that the novelist is a teacher, he was not merely paying tribute to the novelist, but he was celebrating the profession of teachers. Africa has produced some of the greatest intellectuals of the world who were former teachers. To name a few, Ali Mazrui from Tanzania, Ngugi wa Thiong’o from Kenya, Wole Soyinka from Nigeria and many others who have, at some point in their illustrious lives, been teachers.

In India, the position of the teacher, (we call him “Guru”), is closely allied with that of the parents in that the teacher’s responsibility insofar as the student is concerned is as important as that of the parents. Among Hindus when we pray, our first prayers are addressed to the mother, then the father, next the teacher and only then, finally, to God. This is not to say that our Hindu Gods are worshipped any less than other Gods. But rather to say that the primary development of the child lies in the hands of his parents and his teachers.

The parents and teachers therefore have a certain accountability to the community to which they are contributing and to the society at large. It devolves upon these signatories to cultivate future citizens who will build the nation.

Teachers in any society whether belonging to the first world or the third world, are a devalued and neglected aspect of civilisation. Civil servants, doctors, lawyers, engineers are exalted, because it is believed that they contri-bute hugely to the nation. New professions are added every day to the ever-increasing job market. Fifty years ago an MBA did not exist. Subjects such as Public or Business Management were not taught in universities because people did not know about them. Bio-technology and Physiotherapy were in the hands of local farmers and masseurs. The uneducated farmer had his finger on the pulse of the seasons and he knew when to cut his crops, when the winds would change and when he had to put his cattle to sleep.

The teacher’s role has been acknowledged in highly developed and industrialized societies even though as a profession it is not accorded the same kind of respect as other professions. In a technology driven world with the advantages of a world wide web and the internet it is easy to ignore the poor underpaid and overworked teacher. A teacher does not get any recognition for her work and her only reward is when her students perform brilliantly in exams and move on to succeed in life.

In India, the second President of our nation was, S. Radhakrishnan, who was not only a teacher but also a great Philosopher. His treatise on Hindu Philosophy is a Bible for scholars worldwide who have an interest in our religion. His birthday falls on the fifth of September and as a tribute to this great leader of democratic India, the day is celebrated throughout India as “Teacher’s Day”.

On this day students greet their teachers and pay respect to the greatest profession in the world. Different institutions use different ways to commemorate this day. Some institutions award their best/retired teachers on this day; for certain other institutions, it is a day when teachers are invited to a party where there is fun and frolic.

Some students make/buy greeting cards for their teachers to thank them, while others put up some form of entertainment where they mimic their teachers in the spirit of bonhomie. Teachers Day is the day when the nation thanks its teachers for the hard work that they do and for the endless hours that they spend on their wards.

Through your columns I would like to suggest that Namibia also constitute a “Teachers Day” to honour its teachers. It could be on the birthday of one of the leaders of this great country who has in his/her previous avatar been a teacher. By doing this we will teach our students to respect their teachers and we will honour the great leaders of this glorious continent.

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