By Mohamed Handour
By Mohamed Handour
Beni Mellal – The new school year is about to start and parents together with teachers are equally preparing to face its challenges with the usual alacrity. Parents are mainly concerned about the heavy expenses they have to cover to buy books, copybooks and other school materials, in addition to how to ensure their children’s successful performance throughout the whole year. Some are also determined to set aside part of the family budget for private tutoring, which has come into vogue in recent years.
Still for others on the outskirts, where schooling is a big headache for the impoverished families, finding a seat for their children to occupy as boarders is a matter of life and death. It is the first problem to deal with prior to the remainder of the expenses that will go into enrollment and school things. Another group of parents are much more interested in the safety of their little loved ones as they are compelled to trudge five kilometers on the average to their secluded school bearing extreme heat and cold and pangs of thirst and hunger.
In the same vein, teachers are in no better position. Though the layman along with some pseudo- intellectuals, may God forgive them, repeatedly blame us, teachers, for being irresponsible and taunt us with failing to fulfill our mission, I personally salute the assiduous efforts of all colleagues from elementary school to university. Irresponsibility and slackness exist in all spheres; and if they are endemic in the public administration, they are an exception among us, teachers. The educational system is the least affected, tarnished and corrupt realm. It is the one that contributes to the making up of future generations; it is the one that shares the family’s onus as regards the act of upbringing and teaching of noble values. The teacher is one of the few government employees who have to observe their duty indoors and outdoors. ( the fact that is not noticed by most people).
Outside the walls of school, a sheer amount of his/her time goes into preparing his/her lesson plans , grading his students’ exam papers and reading to develop his cognitive level . Inside them, he is supposed to be in time for his work, move to and fro at the chalkboard as he speaks to his students paying no heed to the chalky dust he inhales as he talks to illustrate an idea or shouts to silence a naughty pupil. If you were asked to sort out this riddle: Who is the most punctual government functionary? It wouldn’t take you long to answer: the high school teacher. Go to any other public office at eight o’clock sharp and see if the service is on.
Hey, doctor! And you engineer, who exults in bragging over your high ranked status and in expensive luxurious car, do your job honestly and never forget to salute the teacher who first taught you the alphabet and how to spell it. If you should come across him as he /she cycles to school, brake to a halt, get out of your brand-new car, greet him warmly and remind him of the class and the year you were a member in it. He would hug you the way he does his elder son and say, ‘ I am proud of you and of all those ex-students like you’. Don’t get rid of your school memories and how your physics and math‘s teachers effectively managed to activate your potential and instill in you a sense of motivation that enabled you to study medicine or engineering. Don’t dispense with the decisive moment in your career when you were on the threshold of deviation then, much to your good fortune, your teacher of French or English was alert to that (when your family failed to) and intervened with his/her miraculous advice to save you and guide you to the right track that was to be the theatre of a journey to the top, to the position you are enjoying at the moment.
In fact, the gate of a school or university is one of the few gates in the entire public sector you can go through to get a piece of information, an administrational document, read a notice, or inquire about the school results of your beloved daughter or son without the fear of having to grease the palm of anyone. You can meet a teacher within or without the precincts of the educational institution and ask him/her about the performance or behavior of your son or daughter without having to display the least trace of formality that you would show at the mere sight of a policeman , a senior official or his ‘Mokhazni’.
This is because you fear the latter’s truncheon and treat his military uniform with awe and you underestimate the teacher as a knowledgeable figure and make him the subject of your derision and light-hearted jokes.
I have personally heard plenty of jokes about teachers being parsimonious, crooks and fraudulent. This happens accidentally as I sit reading in a café or as a guest in a party, at the butcher’s, at the barber’s or any other social gathering. I was first appointed in a remote area called Ait Aatab where teachers were, consciously or not, addressed as Fekihs. Seldom was a disparaging joke cracked on any other state functionary no matter how low his educational level was. Worst of all, in communities where money is prioritized over knowledge, values and principles, a drug dealer in Italy is treated with much more respect than a school teacher. Of course, this is the fate of all societies where illiteracy is rampant and human development is still in its early stages.
The teacher can sometimes play a role greater and more effective than that of a father and mother. Thanks to the teacher, a number of students have decided to change their minds and retreat from the idea of dropping out. Thanks to their self denial, many teachers have successfully invested effort in helping a student lagging behind to catch up with those who are smart.
I personally know teachers, who have contributed sums of money to help a poor student carry on his studies, perform a medical operation or treat a chronic disease. Why don’t you do this task, doctor? Why don’t you do this favor just once or twice in your life, especially now that you have made a fortune?
It seems then that all evidence has been corroborated to prove that those who level staunch criticism at teachers are wrong. Attributing the failure of our educational system to the teacher alone is an unsuccessful attempt to divest him of his dignity and make him skeptical about the noble mission he is destined to fulfill.
It pained me a couple of days ago to run across a denigrating article about teachers published here. It wrongly views most teachers through the same prism and looks at them within the same framework. According to the article, the majority of teachers fail to live up to the required principles. The article is fraught with faulty information about the instructor. I could also spare part of my valuable time to read the comment below. It refers to ‘the teacher’s perks’ which should be done away with. I must confess that I couldn’t help laughing when I draw a comparison between our ‘perks’ (i.e. discounts on computers and special credit facilities…) and our minister’s or at least our delegate.
For the writer of this article, the majority of teachers don’t do their jobs. For me, basing my judgment on Elkhawarizmi High school where I work, it is exactly the opposite. Only a few members of our staff are less serious about what they do owing to ill health or old age. Most teachers of all subjects volunteer to give students remedial courses whenever they feel the need for doing that. Most of them are punctual and never miss a single session as long as their health allows. Many a club has been set up under the supervision of a group of teachers who contribute time and effort for the benefit and well being of their students and school, expecting nothing else in return.
In sum, my advice to you brother teacher is to do your job honestly so as not to give the opportunity to those who want to emotionally shatter you or rather who are always yearning to metaphorically slay you. Rest assured that you’re being responsible, dutiful and conscientious will never silence your enemies but I am confident that their jokes, unjust castigation and mockery will merely serve as an added impetus to more assiduous effort, perseverance, self-denial and sacrifice.
I am pretty sure that most of you, dear colleagues, have already developed a strong immunity to all sorts of offensive language that these foul-mouthed creatures constantly utter to hurt your feelings without batting an eyelid. Your perks are not discounts on computers or special interest facilities a bank may grant as you enemies claim. My perks and yours are constituted by the testimony of those you teach and their parents; the heartfelt thanks of the ex-students (now doctors, engineers or policemen ,etc.) that you accidently happen to meet on your way to school or as you ride your bike on a short trip around the town. These and a guiltless consciousness, you go with to bed at night, are the only perks at your disposal.
Admittedly, a few rotten apples are in our midst. Though they constitute a minority, they are the weapon our enemies use to attack us. To these don’t hesitate to give an insightful piece of advice. Tell them that the most valuable perk within your reach is a good reputation. It is this reputation that they should work hard to secure as a kind of retaliation against the enemy.
Before bringing this article to a close, let us agree that our education system is far from healthy but the teacher is not the culprit. It is unjust to always blame the failure of education on us. The root of the disease can be honestly traced to the peak of the pyramid- to the ministry of education.
All the aforementioned facts are tangible proof that the teacher is the cornerstone of the whole system of our national education. More accurately he/she is the foundation without which the whole structure would crumble. For this reason, I candidly salute him /her wherever he/she is and remind him that he/she is not a mere brick in the wall.