A tribute to our teachers

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Everyone has a teacher, or several teachers to thank. That much is undeniable.

Whether you are the Head of State or a subsistent farmer in the remotest part of Samoa, at some point in this life, you would have had to be educated by a teacher of some sort.

In Samoa, it normally begins with mom and dad at home. 

Sunday School teachers then enter the fray, before we move on to the Aoga Fa’ataitai (pre school). We then progress to being taught by Primary school teachers, College teachers and eventually Lecturers at University. 

But learning doesn’t stop there of course. 

When we find formal employment, just because we are armed with a piece of qualification doesn’t mean we become experts automatically. There is always a learning process where one is mentored and supervised to the point we are able to work without supervision. They too can be classified as teachers.  

Which is life, isn’t it? It goes without saying that learning is a lifelong process that never stops. Everyday is an opportunity to learn new things and one simply does not stop learning until we are dead.

Which means that with the world celebrating World Teachers’ Day yesterday, every single one of us will have people to thank. I don’t know about you but I can still remember the names of all my teachers. Yes they had a profound impact on my life and I will never forget their work. And so we shouldn’t. This newspaper is certain that without those teachers, we would not be where we are today.

Yesterday, Samoa paused to pay tribute to her teachers. In front of the government building, teachers were acknowledged for the critical role they play in the community. The theme of this year’s World Teachers’ Day is “Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers.”

Teachers play a critical role in the development of the future of a nation. At the Samoa Observer, we are passionate about the future. It is the reason why we have continued to advocate for the teacher’s plight and their fight for better salaries. I want to remind that at the end of the day, it is the teachers who teach students, not flash buildings and impressive programmes on paper just so that certain people can tick their boxes. 

Indeed, regardless of whatever programmes a school uses, those programmes can only work if they are delivered by a knowledgeable teacher. Great programmes on the hands of a poor teacher will only lead to failure. Which means our focus, if we want to improve literacy and numeracy, should not be about programmes and structures. We should instead focus on ensuring that quality teachers are supported in the work they do. 

Folks, teaching is intellectual work. It is hard work. And they need all the support they can get. 

We have always maintained that teachers in Samoa deserve better pay. What we sow is ultimately what we reap. And lets not kid ourselves, if we sow peanuts in the development of teachers; you know what we will reap.

There are many wonderful things people say about being a teacher. 

But at the end of the day, it is a job and teachers do it for money. Let’s not forget that most teachers are mothers and fathers. They are leaders in their churches and villages, to whom they also hold responsibilities. Responsibilities that require money and in Samoa today, lots of it.

The point – as we also made last week - is that the government has got to start getting serious about recruiting and paying the best teachers to ensure our education system yields the best results. 

We are aware that the government has established a pathway for teachers to improve their salaries. That involves further education for teachers who don’t have the necessary qualifications to allow them to have higher salaries. It’s a good start but that’s going to take years. 

But as it stands, we are under absolutely no illusion that if education in Samoa is to improve, teachers need to be paid well. It’s a known fact that teachers continue to wallow among the lowest paid public servants in this country. Even worse is the fact they continue to be given all sorts of silly excuses as to why salaries – for many of them - remain poor. 

The issue of brain drain is very real in all areas of society. In Samoa today, teaching has been severely affected by it. 

The point is that, if the government means what it says about education, it really is time to put money where its mouth is. 

Today, we want to acknowledge and thank all the teachers of Samoa. We want you to know we appreciate what you do and we pray that you will never give up on the future of this nation. Have a fabulous Friday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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