South Sudan: The Roles of Teachers in the Education Sector as Agents of Change

Posted: April 5, 2019 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Abraham Mabior Rioc, Commentary, Contributing Writers, Education, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

The roles of teachers as vibrant agents of change and the enormous challenges besetting their teaching profession

By Abraham Mabior Rioc, Hong Kong, China      

Friday, April 5, 2019 (PW) — The teaching profession in some countries, especially the developing nations, has often been ignored in terms of allocation of enough educational resources to meet the societal goals of quality education. As a result, this renders the profession less desirable when it comes to national intake quota per se and also contributes to low morale among instructors at all levels of education.

In most cases, the position of a teacher is very important in the society for it disseminates important messages and vital information through learning and teaching domains which are pertinent to professional and intellectual development. For this reason, the teaching profession continues to lose its brilliant and qualified manpower to other sectors despite the vital roles they play in the nation building. 

In one of his lectures at St. Lawrence University in Uganda, Prof. J.C Sekamwa, a prominent professor of Education in Uganda had this to say: “Teacher is like a father who loves all his children irrespective of their behaviors and manners”. In a different context, in his teaching, he would always tell us (his students) that teaching, and learning is the opposite side of the same coin and each supplement one another. In this respect, it implies that a teacher is like a biological father or mother who does not discriminate against his or her own children–being the lame, weak, thief, mention them. 

In my view, my academic interaction with him in a numerous occasion has put me in a position to learn more about education and the moral principles of a professional teacher which are repeatedly given less consideration by the government. In this respect, one would be convinced that teachers will continue to suffer more because of their humility in society unlike those who become violent from the political point of view, are habitually rewarded by the government so as to silence them.

As an aspiring academic, I critically took note of his advice and understanding the standpoint of a teacher and continuously analyze and relate it to South Sudan context in which the teaching force has been marginalized politically and economically for some time now. In many parts of the world, the locus of a teacher has often been overlooked by the authority despite the fact that teachers are the sole agents of change in the wider communities. The situation teachers operate in South Sudan is hostile and unpredictable at the same time both constitutionally and cost-effectively.

From the perspective of multicultural education, one of the teachers’ professional obligations is accord due respect to the student regardless of race, religion, tribes, gender, political and cultural affiliations. In a classroom setting, each learner’s ideas and opinions are valued and appreciated. Thus, learners learn how to listen to and appreciate other people’s cultures and creeds without distinction. This alone helps in trust building and confidence among the learners of diverse ethnic groups like in a tribal-centered nation, just as in the case of South Sudan. 

In this background, it should be noted that teachers in South Sudan are the least paid, least motivated and nobody cares about their wellbeing despite their continued commitments to discharge their professional obligations. Undeniably, almost all teachers in South Sudan are paid less between 5-15 dollars a month which sometimes take more than 6 months to receive their salaries unlike their counterparts in other sectors. As a matter of fact, teachers, however, work tirelessly to create a challenging and conducive work environment for their learners to acquire the necessary knowledge and relevant skills required in the labor market.

Further, teachers are always warm, accessible, enthusiastic and caring about the learners’ development both morally, academically and physically. This creates a non-threatening environment for learners and also enables them to share their emotional feelings and well-being about their professional ambitions and academic activities. Notwithstanding, a professionally trained teacher creates a sense of community and belonging in the classroom and even in the wider school environment where members or parents are fully engaged to be part of the learning activities.

 On the top of the professional roles of a teacher is emphasizing mutual respect among the learners as well as providing a supportive, collaborative learning environment where every student feels safe and secured. However, this does not come out of the blue, but it requires laying down non-discriminative rules and guidelines to be followed during the learning and teaching processes. This requires jobs to be done by each student on the one hand, and teacher on the other hand where a learner is made aware that he or she is an important and integral part of the group. This suggests that a teacher lets students know that they can depend not only on her or him but also on the entire class in particular and the wider school leadership as a whole.

Being cognizant of the different learning abilities and needs of the students, it is a crucial role of a teacher to set high expectations (both academic and professional aspirations) for all his or her students in each level of education. These high expectations are basically aimed at academic achievements, career opportunities and being a responsible and resourceful citizen who can think globally rather than locally with a tribal mindset as can be seen among the South Sudanese communities of today.

In other words, the teaching profession is a national call that is triggered by personal passion and love for the job rather than being driven by material things. On the background, professional teacher has his own love of learning and inspires students and his fellow colleagues with his thirst for education as a professional standpoint to intellectual development.

In so doing, he or she constantly renews himself as a professional on his pursuit of knowledge and innovative skills in order to provide students with the highest quality of education possible that is aimed at meeting the skills of the 21stcentury. This will definitely produce graduates who are self-reliant and job creators during and after their formal education. 

On the pedagogical part, a teacher has no fear of learning new teaching and learning strategies and always ready and willing to share what he or she has learned with his or her colleagues at the level of an institutional setting. In light of his active participation in improving learning, it may be noted that this kind of a teacher is always ready to upgrade his knowledge and acquire new skills so as to keep him professionally active and vibrant in the learning environment.

It is equally important to note that a teacher is a leader who trains the mindsets of his or her learners and shows them their way forward academically and professionally. On this part, an effective teacher focuses mainly on shared decision-making and teamwork as a positive step of community building.

Needless to say, a teacher is always determined to do the right thing rather than doing all things right that brings people together. He or she conveys his or her sense of leadership to students by providing opportunities for each of them to assume leadership roles in their future. This is where a teacher is considered to be a role model in society because of being exemplary to his or her learners in particular and the wider community in general.

Moreover, collaboration with other companion professionals is another avenue for a professional teacher. An effective teacher collaborates with colleagues on an ongoing basis rather than thinking of herself or himself as weak or effective. This calls for a teacher to view collaborative and cooperative efforts as guaranteed traditions that lead to the attainment of professional ambitions and building intellectual landscape. A great teacher uses constructive criticism and advice as some windows of proficient opportunities to grow professionally and effectively.

Conversely, a teacher maintains professionalism in all areas right from personal appearance to organizational skills and preparedness for each day or year. This reminds him or her to keep in check his or her communicational skills and be considerate at all times whether she/he is speaking with an administrator, students or a colleague. The respect that the great teachers receive because of their professional manners is obvious to those around them in the community and the outside world. 

While teaching is a gift that comes quite naturally for some, others have to work overtime to achieve great teacher status. Yet the payoff is enormous for both the teacher and the learners with its associated iniquities that are overwhelming the teaching profession. In purely quality terms, teachers are considered to be the promoters of effective learning and teaching strategies from all spectrum of life. 

In this setting, they are known for helping their students to aim high in life and see students’ work in their courses and programs. Hence, students’ preparation for lifelong learning is vitally important through the creation of the finest learning environment which is normally planned and executed by a teacher despite the obvious challenges facing him or her.  Equally important is students’ shared view that promotes learning and teaching since it goes beyond content acquisition and knowledge dissemination. 

In conclusion, it is ultimately important to note the vibrant roles teachers play as guides, counselors, directors, and above all, vivacious agents of change at individual, community, and national levels. In the same note, teachers are among the noticeable nation builders, non-corrupt, peacemakers, eradicators of illiteracy, campaigners of gender-based violence, campaigners of human rights, promoters of child rights, promoters of quality education, and above all educational policy implementers. 

In this sense, they are friends to everybody irrespective of race, religion and political or cultural affiliations due to the fact that their teaching profession is unique and against all forms of evils as it is guided by strong moral principles of the teaching profession. However, despite their widely known low payment and continued isolation from taking their share of the national cake, they are still willing to offer their time and professional efforts in serving the nation faithfully and loyally.

In my view, I beg the government and its educational partners to strategize on the professional development of teachers from all levels of education so as to build sustainable and self-reliant societies through education. 

The author is the Finalist student of Master of Education at The University of Hong Kong, PRC. He is reachable via mabiorrioc@gmail.com

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s