Rescue the  ‘noble profession’

Rescue the ‘noble profession’

I have been told that before the establishment of the National Teachers Training College (Currently Lesotho College of Education) there were several teacher training colleges run by the churches such as Hermitage Training College in Qacha’s Nek belonging to the Catholic Church, Morija College Of the LECSA church and St Catherine’s Training College of the Anglicans., to mention a few.
What was good about these teacher training colleges was that they belonged to different churches and their training styles differed. This means the calibre of teachers we had then was diverse.
Another important element to note is that it is said that the policy at Morija Teachers College was that even if you had passed your first year, they would not allow you to proceed to second year if they felt you were not fit to be a teacher. The fitness was based on several qualities that included the conduct and personality of the teacher trainee.

I bet if Morija College was still in existence in present day Lesotho there are many teachers who would not have made it to our schools, thus protecting the dignity of the noble profession.
Why am I saying this? I have been challenged deeply by the behaviour of the current crop of teachers that borders on malice, nastiness and bullying directed to the learners.
Those of us who follow social media, especially Facebook, would have noticed a trend of teachers that display students’ work on such platforms with the purpose of mocking the Integrated Curriculum, the parents and everybody else for the poor performance of those students.

What is surprising is that most of the teachers comment as though they are outsiders looking at an education system that is crumbling and which they can do nothing about except criticise.
When Lesotho first introduced free primary education in 2000, the proprietors were up in arms as they claimed they had not been consulted before the implementation of such policy in their schools. For them the introduction of free primary education was interpreted as an invasion on their authority and power in their schools by the government.
The teachers were also enraged, arguing that free primary education will affect the quality of education. They may also have had a point as one of the characteristics that determine quality of education are teacher: student ratio.

Unfortunately the resistance and the manner in which the teachers approached the whole subject seemed like sabotage of the policy. The teachers at that time even resorted to name calling the first recipients of free primary as they were called “Bana ba Mosisili”, a name meant to discredit and demean those students.
The failure by teachers to be accommodating of the free primary education policy led to parents being stubborn and refusing to finance even the things that the schools really needed, but that the government did not supply.
I am remembering this case because it seems we are heading to phase two of the teacher-parents face-off in the realm of education in Lesotho.
Teachers are at it again. This time the fight is directed at the Curriculum and Assessment Policy, 2009, commonly known as the Integrated Curriculum. The Integrated Curriculum, which the teachers have named “Pele feela curriculum” (because the curriculum policy directives do not encourage students repeating a grade, except if the parent consents) is the current bone of contention.
The main complaint from the teachers, both at primary and post primary level is that the parents are too blind to see that the quality of the education of their children has been compromised by the introduction of the Integrated Curriculum and its directive that is against the repeating of a grade.

The teachers point out that the Pele feela students do not even know how to write their names, let alone construct a sentence. To me there is nothing new here as I have encountered students who were in Form A as far back as 2006 who could not write.
My former colleagues can attest to this. As such I boldly disagree with the teachers that blame the integrated curriculum for learners that cannot write. However, many would not have known these problems as we did not post students’ work on Facebook.

I must also point out that the display of the weaknesses of students by posting their work on social media in some cases exposes the flaws of the teachers themselves. In one post a teacher had displayed a student composition and his/her comment was inappropriate as the tense used by the teacher was incorrect.
In addition, I had the luck of analysing the policy even though it was at an Honours level, I also had the opportunity to read the work of a colleague that did justice to the policy by analysing it at a larger scale, that coupled with several other readings made me to safely conclude that the Curriculum and Assessment Policy 2009 is a very good and relatively inclusive curriculum policy that Lesotho developed.

For that I pat the Ministry of Education and Training on the back for such a visionary policy. I must also admit that there is no policy that is 100% decent.
Even the integrated curriculum has its fair share of problems that include but are not limited to inadequate facilities, high teacher: student ratio, insufficient training and support for the teachers, lack of resources in the form of learning materials and teacher resistance due to frustration in some cases.

The problems mentioned above are inconsistent with the directives of the Education Act 2010, Section 4(2) which clearly states that — The Minister, Principal Secretary, Teaching Service Commission, proprietors of schools, teachers and school boards shall promote the education of the people of Lesotho and in particular- (a) ensure that a learner is provided with opportunities and facilities to enable him or her to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy, normal manner and in the conditions of freedom and dignity.

The problems are also contradictory to the introductory remarks of the integrated curriculum which stipulates that education has been one of the major strategies for promoting socio-economic development in Lesotho since independence. As a result the Government of Lesotho has prioritised education as one of its major poverty reduction tools.
Present day Lesotho is still a poverty stricken country because the prioritisation of education has not been realised. There is need for all relevant stakeholders to come together and ensure that the quality of education in Lesotho is not compromised.

Pointing fingers at each other will not take Lesotho out of the dilemma it is facing. It is only when we the stakeholders collaborate and ensure the realisation of the stipulations of the Education Act 2010 section 4(2)(a) that Lesotho will be truly liberated by our education.
Lastly, teachers, by virtue of being the experts, should drop the Pele Feela Curriculum mentality and exercise their professionalism by engaging parents in the education of their children. Teachers should learn from the past mistakes such as the mistake made during the inception of the free primary education.

By:  Kelello Rakolobe

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