2 Oct 2001
THE PLIGHT OF THE TEACHER IN CAMEROON
‘The reward of the teacher is in heaven’. This is a common expression we are all too familiar with. Yes, it is true that all conscientious teachers certainly have their reward in heaven but it does not imply that their earthly life must be surrounded by deprivation. There is no single policy maker in this country that did not rise up to where he/she is without the pivotal role of the teacher. In school, the teacher has always assumed the role of our parents especially at the primary school level. The teacher complemented the efforts of our parents to shape our character and thus produce the successful people we are. We are what we are today thanks to the different teachers we passed through their hands.
Those among us who are successful enough to become the policy makers of this country usually share part of our success with our parents especially in the domain of making them materially comfortable. What about the other person who aided your parents to raise you? I mean the teacher or more precisely the teaching profession. Why have successive administrators in this country failed to address the problems of the teacher? We must admit that in the Cameroonian context, the teachers are underpaid comparatively to the work they do. If you assess the work done by teachers who are state employees compared to that of other civil servants it becomes clear that these people are poorly treated. They are plagued by problems ranging from increased children enrolment to the absence of basic working materials for both student and teacher alike. They look after children who are products of a society that is both financially and morally bankrupt. They are expected to produce successful citizens out of these children who are already partially dislocated by society yet they (teachers) are also victims of the very system.
In order to perform their duties effectively, teachers must have a psychological edge over students. A situation where University teachers are forced by low salaries to share student style rooms in ‘mini cites’ with their students is anything but dignifying. The pauperization of teachers has produced a dangerous phenomenon especially in Francophone schools where some children actually buy their way at various examinations. This tells you how much the ‘parent’ image of the teacher has eroded. It is indeed a bad omen for this country as children have started bribing their ‘parents’. Indefensible as it may be, this act of receiving bribes from children is a reflection of the general moral decay of the Cameroonian society. ‘Goat de chop for place where they tie ye’ so goes a common adage in corrupt circles meaning that you take advantage of your duty post to ask and receive bribes. Some teachers with twisted minds have decided that they have to ‘chop’ (take bribes) from students that symbolize the place they (goats) have been tied. Even if the teacher is starving, this act is debasing and must be condemned energetically by all of us that support teachers’ rights.
Something must be done to boost the morale of teachers so that they can carry on with their duties devoid of temptations and complacency. If we frustrate the teachers and they fail to deliver the goods then we are doomed as a nation. All nations on earth with foresighted leaders are currently investing heavily on upgrading the quality of education for their children. The global village that the world has become is pitiless on those who are ill prepared to compete on a global scale. The way we treat our teachers will determine whether we want to remain at the periphery of the world or frog leap into the 21st century with others.
Copyright ã 2001 by Njei Moses Timah
Njei Moses Timah [e-mail]