EYEWITNESS: Aspirations… to be a teacher

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During colonial days, most of the upper rungs of the economic strata were occupied by white Britishers. The rest of the society had to fight their way up the ladder tooth and nail. The starting point for most was to become teachers in the school system – mostly right out of the same primary school as “pupil-teachers”. But they became very respected in their communities, and a headmaster was a veritable god!

All of this adulation had a feedback effect, and teachers conducted themselves with dignity and gravitas as they fulfilled their duties, which to them was a vocation, not a “wuk”. Teachers were stabilisers of society, and many would further their education to move up further. Both Burnham and Hoyte were teachers before they took to legal education. Burnham’s father was a teacher, and then a headmaster in Kitty.

But sadly, after Burnham was given independence and then took to rigging elections, which led to the destruction of every institution in our country, the teaching profession wasn’t spared. In his drive for absolute power, he subverted the profession in two ways. Individually, things became so “brown” – as inflation ate away their fixed salaries – many of them had to turn to selling “sweeties” to their students to supplement their income. That didn’t exactly augment the regard of their wards for them. The second way was institutionally, as he formed his own “Masters and Mistresses Union” to break the GTU.

Anyhow, by the time he passed on, the teaching profession’s reputation had become mud – which also described the conditions of most of the schools! And that was the situation the PPP had to fix (along with everything else) when they returned to office in 1992. And slowly, that’s exactly what they did. Today, the entire infrastructural innards of the school system have been rebuilt, with some of the newer schools reaching First World standards. Teachers were also brought back from the margins, as the Teachers College churned out trained teachers who could go on to earn their degree at UG – and higher salaries.

This is as it should be, since teachers literally mould the future in the form of the new generation. So, even though the PNC haven’t changed their stripes and recently attempted to use the Teachers Union once again to further their political ambitions – by having them wallow in the mud using gutter language – there is still hope.

The top student at this year’s NGSA said she wants to become a teacher!! For our nation to fulfill the destiny promised by our oil revenues in the years ahead, it is teachers who’ll have to get us ready.

They need our best and brightest! Hats off to Nirvana Wimal!!

…on schooling equity

Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, has just warmed the cockles of your (jaded) Eyewitness’s heart! No…she didn’t belt that smarmy and obnoxious Duncan one on his chops!! She resuscitated her old plan to bring all the secondary schools to the same level, so the elite schools won’t all be in Georgetown. This legacy of the centralised British rule, to accommodate their scions in the capital, has stubbornly remained in place – cutting off many kids from outlying areas who just don’t want to (or can’t) be relocated.

She announced that she’s immediately introducing CAPE in three of those latter schools – Chandisingh in Berbice, Anna Regina in Essequibo, and West Demerara Secondary in Reg 3. This is a concrete beginning of what had just been an aspiration, and she must be backed to the hilt. We cannot have our entire crop of 14,000 students annually scramble for less than a thousand places in Georgetown.

As with CSEC, your Eyewitness predicts that these new CAPE schools will outperform the old “elite”!!

…and social media

Social media is going to have a profound effect on the ability of our youths to absorb what they’ll be exposed to in the schools.

The MoE will have to incorporate its use! If you can’t beat it…!