Shikukuma Blasius and Shikukuma Carlos are twin brothers aged 29 years old, they grew up in the same homestead and matriculated at the same school in the Oshikoto region. Upon completion of their matric with satisfactory points, they both got admitted to tertiary institutions in 2006.
Blasius went to the University of Namibia to study education (teaching) whilst Carlos went to the then Polytechnic of Namibia to study business administration. In 2010, they both graduated with degree qualifications. Blasius became a teacher and Carlos became a financial advisor at the Developmental Bank of Namibia. Carlos worked only for one year and built a luxurious house. In his second year of working, he bought a nice car. Blasius got inspired by his brother, and wanted to do the same but unfortunately he could not afford it.
One day Blasius sneaked into his brother’s suitcase and got his brother’s payslip – as he skimmed through it, he was overwhelmed by the perks and salary he saw on his brother’s payslip. Blasius somehow got envious.
Every morning he walks to work alongside the dusty gravel road, he taps into contemplation, and asks himself: how come my brother widely earns more benefits than me, if we both work for the government and have qualifications, degrees? How would people in our society label me? My brother’s socio-economic status has drastically elevated but mine is still mediocre. Should I resign from teaching and go back for further studies?
Teaching is a crucial profession that mothers all the other professions. Most matriculants opt to pursue teaching as a career at an institution of higher learning. Statistically, in 2018, the University of Namibia admitted a total of 6 903 student teachers, which is way higher compared to other courses.
In contrast, the same way they join the teaching profession in large numbers, is the same way they resign in large numbers. It is estimated that roughly 1 008 teachers who have been in the profession for less than 10 years, resign annually.
If I may ask: how many teacher graduates have retired as teachers? In exclusion of those that did not reach their retirement age and due to untimed events such as death and disability, etc. Most importantly, why are many teachers flocking out of the teaching profession?
There are a variety of contributing factors as to why there is a high resignation rate in the teaching profession. The following are my views:
Motivation and benefits
Unlike Switzerland, Luxembourg, Canada, Germany, Netherlands and South Africa, Namibia is believed to be paying its teachers peanuts. There is a common notion that says “teachers are the mothers of all professions in the world, so they deserve precious accolades and benefits.” In comparison with other professions’ perks, this demotivates teachers, and forces them to resign. Think of the story of Blasius and Carlos above.
Teachers feel pressured to be not only a teacher, but in many cases a parent, social worker, and psychologist. They are also constantly pressured to join school committees, sponsor clubs, and help supervise after-school events. All of these activities usually take place outside of teachers’ contract hours, and in many cases they are not paid for that. Teachers go to work to teach and many do it with full devotion. They go to work early in the morning and some stay until late, planning lessons, and so forth. This results in teachers developing fatigue and disillusionment.
Wrong career choice
Throughout learners’ schooling timeline, they are mostly more intimate to teachers than other professionals. Consequently, they get inspired and choose teaching as a career. A research conducted by John Dewey reveals that “most matriculants are voluntarily and involuntarily enticed by the teaching profession, simply because they are mostly exposed to teachers in their schooling lifetime and in most occasions teachers are the ones that subjectively guide them to choose a teaching career.” Furthermore, poor career guidance and exposure (world experience) is also one of the contributing factors.
Teaching profession turning into dustbin of other callings
Since 2015, states have reported difficulty hiring qualified teachers. This prompted many schools to fill vacancies with temporary teachers who have little training or speciality in other fields. One would wonder, why doesn’t it apply to other professions? For instance, nursing, police, military, etc. It puzzles me a lot when our schools recruit unqualified teachers while there are qualified teachers sitting idle at home or roaming the streets. Similarly, this is like replacing a pilot with a geologist to fly an aeroplane – obviously, the passenger’s life will be in peril. Therefore, this is the same situation as that of the learners being taught by unqualified teachers. How do we expect learners to perform beyond their expectation if they are taught by unqualified teachers who lack the in-depth knowledge of the
Teaching profession prestige
In the olden days, teachers were seen as crucial figures in our societies. This is simply because in the olden days teachers had self-respect and behaved professionally, unlike nowadays. Today, most of them are seen roaming around shebeens and clubs with their learners sharing a cigarette, if not a glass of wine or beer. To make the matter worse, some educators even go to an extent of courting and sleeping with their learners which is seriously against the teachers’ code of conduct. Talk of dressing code, some teachers, especially diminutive ones, dress as if they are going for a date. Owing to this, the teaching profession is slowly and surely losing value.
In conclusion, unless teachers’ working conditions improve, we will still continue to see a number of good and quality teachers flocking out of the profession. It is high time that the ministry of education bureaucracy starts recognizing teachers by providing them handsome benefits.
Tomas Nehale is a teacher by profession