• Many teachers have been offering guidance and counselling virtually to the youth
This week began with the global celebration of teachers and educators across the world. October 5th is marked as World Teachers' Day internationally. This global day of honour has been observed since 1994.
The day was inaugurated by Unesco, which itself was founded 75 years ago at the end of the World War II as an agency for intellectual cooperation at international level.
Like many other annual events in this year, World Teachers Day has been marked in the wake of the new coronavirus pandemic. This called for adjustments of one kind or another to celebrate the day safely.
In Kenya, it is usual for the day to have peaceful marches or exhibitions. These crowd-gathering activities were absent this year as most learning facilities are yet to resume full activities. Farther abroad, different organisations organised virtual extravaganza to celebrate teachers on this special day.
For example, an organisation called Educational International hosted the largest-ever online meeting of teachers. It organised this event as a celebration of the commitment and leadership teachers have demonstrated in this age of the pandemic. Even with institutions shut on health grounds, teachers have spearheaded the adoption of e-learning and shifted their work from offline to online spaces.
Both public and private learning institutions have accepted the new normal of virtual education. From preschools to universities and colleges, teachers have been tasked with the duty of ensuring new media and digital technologies are now part and parcel of learning environments. This is true even here in Kenya and across the so-called Global South.
Blended learning and interactive teaching require that teachers or instructors adapt to new technologies and develop their ICT competencies. The pandemic did not provide ample time for such a paradigm shift. This means it is the teachers of the world who have had to adjust at a remarkable rate.
The fact that schools and varsities are reopening in Kenya testifies that a high success has been witnessed in this matter. Indeed, the pandemic has reminded us the central role teachers play in our nations and communities. They are not just content developers and dispensers. They are surrogate parents, too, especially to boarding students.
Before Covid-19, many young parents were used to their children being away at boarding facilities for many months. They had to adjust to the pandemic-caused lockdowns and school closures. More time at home with the children was both a blessing and a challenge. This has been the case especially with the many restrictions the pandemic brought that saw parents keeping their children indoors even in densely populated neighbourhoods.
To address the social anxieties and psychological pressures occasioned by these new domestic patterns with the closure of schools, many teachers have been offering guidance and counselling webinars and virtual trainings that target the youth.
These trainings have focused on topics such as premarital sex, drugs abuse and control as well as juvenile delinquency. They reveal that teachers are integral in nurturing the youth and the young, regardless of whether learning is offline or online.
As we join the rest of the world in saluting the role of teachers in our midst, let us remember the wisdom of Confucius, the ancient Chinese sage. He once said, “Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.” The role of education in fostering a confident nation and peaceful generation full of hope cannot be gainsaid.
In 2020, we have come to the realisation that education can come to a standstill in drastic times of a dangerous outbreak. Schools and facilities of learning can remain shut and unkempt with weeds competing with flowers under the sun of uncertainty.
However, one factor remains constant in the scheme of things. This is the centrality of teachers and these can be those trained for the profession or those answering the higher call of sages.