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Habiba Aden, a teacher at Tetu Primary School in Garissa County with a pupil in class. File Photo

The importance of teachers as mentors and role models

By Pauline Kithinji.

One of the tactics my dad used to make me take my studies seriously was to threaten to enrol me for a P1 (Primary Teacher Education Certificate) if I failed my national examinations. It worked.
It’s just a certificate, let alone a diploma. And I dreaded the mere thought of being a teacher. Teaching seemed monotonously boring and un-ambitious.
But now I look back and think of the resilience it must have taken my pre-school teacher to get me and some other ten or thereabout toddlers to write the alphabet apart from just singing it. How shrewd she must have been to have our attention. The zeal to have us all eat our lunch.
The heart she must have possessed to sometimes clean us up when our slow learning bladders lost their control. The difficulty she must have faced to get us all to sleep in the afternoons, something we would be so grateful for now.
Or my class eight English teacher, whom I still speak to. The tolerance it must have taken to read all those too cliché and grammatically eroded compositions.
The patience he must have had to make it get to our heads that we travel by bus and on foot and that we say my name is, not my names are, which we still struggle with to date.
The Maths teacher must have found it harder than everyone else. The ability to still teach a subject he knew most hated. How persuasive he ought to have been to get some of us to like the subject, forget about the methods used. The skills it must have required him to get us to master the millions of mathematical formulas.
How about the teachers with mother tongue influence in their speech? How confident they should have been to still teach knowing that we were secretly laughing and making fun behind their backs.
More reverently I think of Michael Wamaya, one of the 2017 top ten finalists for The Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Awards. A high school drop out with a rewarding job among the many jobless graduates. He could easily have chosen to teach rich kids ballet, for after all aren’t they the ones that the dance is meant for. But he insists on sticking to kids from Mathare and Kibera. The impact he must have on those kids. For once they have something to boast of to their rich counterparts. The pride they must now have for the ability to do what they have only seen on telly.
And so now I wonder why teaching is highly discriminated when it is a profession of such great virtues. Why it is only in China that teachers are seen to have equal status with doctors, according to The Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Status Index. Because I can now only wish that I had the audacity to be a teacher.

Pauline Kithinji, a fourth year communication student at Daystar University.

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