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Let’s treat our teachers better - EDITORIAL

30 August 2019 01:34 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Teachers are assets to the country despite those rendering this service not being among those who are earning a decent salary in keeping with their qualifications.  
Recently the focus on teachers became the talking point at a top forum. The speaker was none other than President Maithripala Sirisena himself. President Sirisena outlined the importance of teachers in the role of mentoring students before he handed over the appointment letters to recipients to serve in schools in the Southern Province. The president made these comments at a function which was held at the Weligama Urban Council on August 27 (Tuesday). 


True, teachers have a role to play in shaping the country’s future. This is why there is a demand to have teachers who can mould the character in students. Teaching goes beyond taking paragraphs from the text book and feeding students with knowledge. Educationists opine that teachers must be innovative and present drills associated with the lesson in a manner that makes the interest in students for a subject grow. 
But nothing positive would happen in a society where teachers are frustrated. A few weeks ago we saw teachers protesting in a bid to settle salary anomalies. Even school principals were also involved in this struggle. 
Apart from issues with salaries there is a severe shortage of teachers in this island. Reports reveal that as many as 50,000 teachers are set to retire at the end of year 2020; once reaching the compulsory retirement age of 60 years. Education experts reveal that the teacher shortage in the country would tripple by the beginning of 
next year. 


The worst effected area in terms of teacher shortage is the North Central Province. This province needs 16,200 teachers and is short of 1600 teachers. The shortage of teachers for subjects like Science, Mathematics and Technology. There is also a shortage of teachers to serve in the primary sections of 
academic institutes. 
The Teacher Training College passes out 400 individuals annually while the National College of Education releases 1350 each year to serve in schools. However rural areas have been totally neglected or given 
step-motherly treatment. 
Despite all these hardships and shortages we observe, so much of a fuss is being made on October 5 to honour teachers on World 
Teachers’ Day. 


The day is commercialised to such an extent that teachers are showered with gifts. There are occasions where some of the gifts presented to them, on this day, have been acquired after spending a colossal sum of money. This is the culture in most of the popular schools in the Western Province. But teachers in rural schools might not receive anything more than a sheaf of betel leaves. This act is then followed by the student worshiping the teacher after going on his or her knees. Age-old traditional practices like these not only strengthen the student-teacher bond; they offer something more valuable than a gift wrapped in a glossy sheet of paper.    


The president speaking at the function also underscored the importance of teachers taking the effort to instill discipline in their chargers. A large number of students go on to become professionals; some going on to obtains doctorates. But academic knowledge alone might not produce a well-rounded individual. This is a country where we saw during past regimes lawmakers getting teachers to kneel down because their children were punished inside classrooms. It can’t be measured in wealth what the teachers do to instill a healthy attitude in their students. Teachers play a vital role in shaping the character of students because a teacher’s influence is so vital in producing an individual who can fit 
into society. 


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