The Colbert Factor:
Teachers Appreciation month: Children mark their scripts (Part I)
Since time immemorial, society has attributed to the teacher the principal role of grading pupils and students’ scripts, besides their traditional duties of spending long hours every week preparing lessen notes and attending refresher conferences to better the teaching/ learning process. Teachers themselves since legitimized this role by making the blue and red pen become a natural extension of their human bodies; in much the same way cell phones were once stocked to the owners’ waistband. From the moment one saw a blue and red pen stocked to the chest pocket of an individual in society, one never needed to negotiate the next bend before ascertaining he was a teacher.
Taking the pretext of this October month which is recognized the world over as ‘Teachers Appreciation Month’, beginning October 5, which is World Teachers Day; we at The Colbert Factor, decided to turn the heat on the teachers by reaching out to their pupils and students(past and present), to award marks to them. Our decision to do so was informed by this year’s World Teachers Day theme which is: ‘The transformation of education begins with the teacher’.
Fittingly so, we were quickly reminded of the fact that we are where we are today in the two English-speaking regions of the country because way back in 2016, the All Anglophone Teachers Trade Unions led by Tasang Wilfred (today incarcerated at the Yaounde-Kondengui maximum prison), saw the urgent need to arrest the reckless butchering of the much-cherished Anglo Saxon educational system through a biased policy of harmonization with French becoming the common denominator in the two English-speaking regions. After tons of memoranda to the central government in vain for reversals, the All Anglophone Teachers Trade Unions, (and in a desperate move); opted for the shutdown of the school system, pending drastic reforms.
Although the originally good-intentioned move by the All Anglophone Teachers Trade Unions have today led to unimaginable negative consequences, (morphing from corporate demands to political ones, and finally disrupting the same system they intended to fortify and transform); it is worth noting that the educational transformation the teachers sort to ignite in 2016, only became visible and urgent to the international education community this year. Hence, this year’s theme on the fact that the transformation of education begins with the teacher.
Just like it is today universally acknowledged that the transformation of education begins with the teacher; so too that of the family and society begin with children.
It is these children, beginning from the nursery and primary, through secondary to the tertiary, that this week, we sort to know how transformative their lives have been through the teachers they have interacted with over the years.
It was a challenging exercise that more than gave us a unique opportunity to test our interview skills. How does a three year old confidently volunteer information to a complete stranger? How do you get a five year old to answer a question correctly? And if the answers she/he volunteers are not leading to your expected outcomes, how do you formulate a follow-up question?
Despite the challenges, we came home with very fascinating insights to the effect that, children may indulge their appetite with ice cream and chocolate; they may tear away one notebook per day or throw away one pencil per hour; they may lose their toys every week; they may insist on an interminable consumption of television; but no one can accuse them of the lack of views or frankness. You would be embarrassed about what they hold of their teachers.
Although we constantly hear adults shout: “Oh shut up, what do you know? After all you’re only a child”, our interview outcome reveal children know a lot. Their experiences may be limited, their horizon low, their thoughts mundane, but the kids know, sometimes a lot more than adults. They express their views fearlessly, but certainly not unthinkingly-for their views are the product of their experience.
Proof of this is the story told of a six year old child who told his father that when he grows up he would like to be a journalist. There wasn’t much traffic of information between father and son on the subject, after all, as the father reckoned “what does a child of six years know about the choice of a career?”. Two years ago, the same boy revisited the subject. Apparently wisened by events around him, the boy announced to the father that he was no longer interested in earning a living as a vendor of words. The boy’s father became curious and asked to know why the child has changed his mind. “I don’t want to be killed like Samuel Wazizi,” a reference to the Buea-based journalist that died in military detention two years ago having been arrested on trump-up of conniving and colluding with separatist fighters. The child’s survival instincts tell him that it might be in his best interest to avoid a high risk profession such as journalism. With such an acute sense of self-preservation and faultless manner of expressing it, even teachers would wonder what their pupils or students think of them.
We all know children to be a sweet nuisance. A couple without these tiny pairs of feet in the home would not experience any joy. Even with the pain of raising children, no couple ever wants to live without a child.
Those who have them lavish their love on them. Those who do not have them go to the ends of the earth to find one. They enroll in spiritual churches; they consult the local medicine man; they search for a baby in a test-tube. Men who are about to wed make a protruding stomach the condition for taking the girl of their choice to the altar. Those who are married but childless sometimes throw the marriage out of the window because there are no tiny feet in the home.
A wife who has been going through tin and tick with the husband ends up saying: “I’m only staying put because of my kids”. A husband who cannot withstand the waywardness of the wife concludes in desperation: “But for the children, I would have sent her packing’. A child therefore is a family’s crowning glory. He or she is a link between the present and the future. He or she is the one who receives the baton from mum and dad and continues life’s relay race on behalf of both. The child is man’s John the Baptist. He/she is actually the forerunner of man or woman. These character traits were demonstrated in triumphant detail during our interviews with the toddlers.
They were just as excited to talk about their ‘Please Madame’/’Please Sir’ to us as they are when they about to unravel a Christmas gift.
Sample question one to Cynthia, Nursery Two child of Amazing Grace Educational Complex, Mile 6-(Bocom-Nkwen): ‘Who is your best teacher and why do you like him or her?’ Cynthia: ‘I like my madame because she always give us sweets in class when my mother never gives’. Journalist: ‘How many marks on 10 can you score your madame for being so good in class?’ Cynthia: ‘That’s not how they say it. Our madame told us it is ‘marks over 10, not marks on 10’. Journalist: ‘Okay, I’m sorry. So how many marks over 10 can you score your madame?’. Cynthia: ‘My madame does not need marks, she needs increased salary to take care of her family. We children are the ones that need ‘marks’ to pass our exams to class 1′.
Sample question Two, to Belta in class Two, PNEU-Bamenda: What can you say you like about your madame?. Belta: ‘I don’t think like our madame because she beats me very well when I don’t write well’. Journalist: ‘So, how many marks can you give your madame?’ Belta: ‘Hmmmmm, I give him 5/10. That’s what she usually gives me oh’.
Sample question three:…Dear reader, we interviewed over 300 pupils and students, past and present, and it would need a dedicated team of journalists to painstakingly go through, sort, analyze and present them to you in a consumable manner. To get this done, we need your support to help us motivate the team behind keyboards, as they tidy up the most scintillating (Part II)
Knowing just too well that ‘teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions’, and that it’s an is an undeniable fact that, without good teachers, there would be no scientists, politicians, engineers, doctors, writers, or artists; you would be indirectly paying tribute to your teachers by supporting this ‘Teachers Appreciation Month’ project.
*Colbert Gwain is digital space citizen/native, author, radio host and content creator @TheColbertFactor
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