May 15, 2008

TEACHING – NO LONGER A VOCATION

Posted in Economics, Education, Guyana, Science & Technology tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:09 am by randallbutisingh

TEACHING – NO LONGER A VOCATION

By Randall Butisingh

This article was written in 1971, a few months before I retired.

I was very dissatisfied with what was taking place in school; where political expediency ousted teaching ethics resulting in a breakdown of discipline, insubordination and the degradation of Education in the schools of Guyana.

——–

Teaching had always been regarded as a vocation, and it was expected that the men and women who entered its ranks did so because of that sense.

The earliest teachers were volunteers who gave their spare time to educate the young ones of their time. Robert Raikes, an Englishman was one of the first of this kind. His pupils were the scum of the English slum – the stray boys as they were called – and his first task was to teach them Religion, and later Reading and Writing.

From that humble beginning sprang the Church Schools which gave formal lessons in the Three R’s and also taught them Religion… Teachers were remunerated but the pay was so small that only the dedicated offered their services. To these it was an opportunity for service to their fellow men.

Even in this country, in the nineteenth century, teaching attracted to a great extent, the dedicated and conscientious worker. Teachers never used to grudge giving services during unofficial hours; to them, it fitted with the sense of vocation.

Vocation knows no holiday and working in an occupation in which one is dedicated is a holiday in itself. The good teacher enjoys this perpetual holiday and is bored and unhappy when he is away from his charge.

For the past half century and more, much has been done to mar the spirit of devotion, though it is not entirely eradicated. The payment by results system, in Dual Control, when government came in and paid the bills, has been one of the ugliest blots in the administrative system. If teachers gave extra service, they gave it through compulsion; they struggled hard to survive, and in the struggle, some resorted to unethical means. The smartest and not always the most conscientious survived.

This state of affairs, where results mattered most, proved a bane to real progress because, if volition which is consistent with the spirit of dedication is removed, then vocation becomes a misnomer, and true education, that what is worth knowing and becoming suffers.

At present the payment by results system does not obtain, but teaching in the context of Guyana, has been made attractive in the form of more pay for teachers, opportunity of training for all – formerly only the few academically best were selected for training – protection of a trade union which can resort to the strike weapon and go-slow tactics, and numerous holidays.. These have attracted into the profession many who have no love for teaching, self-seekers, opportunists, who can never inspire or motivate their pupils.

Some of these square pegs however, are intrinsically good, with a potential for other type of occupations, but unfortunately, the system offers them no scope for their development, neither has it been able to discover their hidden talents. So the potential technician, craftsman, farmer, fisherman and others find teaching a field for financial exploitation, and also a stepping stone to more lucrative employment… With the promise of free education for all, what will happen to the army of youths of average ability who will pass five or more subjects at the G.C.E “O’ level? Surely the teaching profession, the civil service and the industries will not be able to absorb all of them in white collar posts. Many of them will roam the streets and be a burden to state and society.

The type of Education which does not take aptitude into consideration cannot successfully build a young nation that is struggling for economic sufficiency through Cooperatives. Technical skill and brawn are the things most needed… Without them our Education would be unproductive, it would produce unproductive teachers who would perpetuate un-productivity.

A manual- based Education is the best thing for our schools. Pupils should be made to use their hands right from the beginning and produce. This productivity should continue all through the school… No school should be without a Garden, a Handicraft and a Domestic Department. Here is where the children would learn that there is dignity in labour and would enjoy the fruits of labour. Every School, if properly organized will be able to pay some of its expenses. If this is done, when the pupils leave school, they will be able to wrest a living from the Agricultural lands, Forests, Water and other resources of the country.

Again proper incentives should be given to the manual-type worker if this type of occupation is to be stressed. The scavenger who does the dirtiest work but very essential job should be better paid than the clerk; the farmer should be rewarded with bonuses and national honours and compensated when his crops get destroyed by floods or pests.

The indispensable service of the farmer should be properly recognized as his profession is a noble one and people owe him their sustenance. Also a National Farmers’ Day should be held every year when public recognition could be paid to them.

Because of the security which teachers enjoy and the unwillingness of many to go the ‘second mile’, they should be made to do by compulsion what their counterparts of the past did voluntarily. What reason is there why teachers should not work more than five hours a day, five days a week and during vacation? This does not mean that they will have to do routine work all the time, but they can surely help the Nation in social work like Adult Education, Youth Club activities and classes for the underprivileged. They can also find some time visiting parents, arranging their own refresher courses, writing text books and learning to use their hands among other things.

The holidays given throughout the year should not mean exemption from duty for teachers. They should be considered on duty and be available for utilization in the National cause, especially as they are paid for these periods.

At present, apart from the three months’ holidays teachers get every year, a month’s leave every three years, many hours are lost to teaching in this country by teachers who take leave for illnesses real, or imaginary, and for selfish reasons.

Is there any wonder, taking all these things into consideration that Teaching has ceased to be a Vocation for many?

——

Update: All the recommendations concerning Farming that I have made in this article were later implemented by the People’s National Congress (P.N.C.) Government administration.(1964-1992)

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6 Comments »

  1. Patanjali Ramlall said,

    Sir,
    Your critique of one of the greatest ills currently facing this country is apt. Madame Maria Montessori* may be smiling at you from her eternal abode at this at this very minute.
    However, we must remember that institutions are founded for specific purposes and they run on their own momentum for varying periods of time.

    Once that momentum falls off, the governing bodies only see the forest, and entirely miss the trees, as a wise person originally stated. Thus,the institutions become self-serving; no remedy is good enough,and nothing logical is ever taken into consideration,the goal is soon ditched.

    As I see it, the best example of bad governance is the lawmakers in Washington, DC; THEY REMAIN THE MOST POWERFUL, SELF-SERVING GROUP in the history of mankind.
    The citizens of this country need to be more vigilant and DEMAND changes.
    Florida’s Edcutaional system is in a “State” OF DISARRAY, and yet all of our elected officials talk about is FCAT.

    Finally, I pay tribute to you, my guru, and those honest and dedicated teachers who continue to produce our scholars and ask for nothing else except a decent salary.

    Your chela,
    Patanjali Ramlall

    * Gurudev Tagore’s “Santineketan”, in Calcutta,(now Kolkata,)was patterned in part from Madame Montessori’s vision.

  2. Thanks Pat for your scholarly response on “Teaching no longer a Vocation” Your responses to date have very much helped to challenge my thinking. Keep on posting them. I hope others who visit my blog will do the same.

  3. mortlan Achaia said,

    Sir ,because of distinguished Guyanese like you i was attracted to the teaching profession. I was your student at Mon Repos and to this day remember some of the things you thought me.I remember some lines from a beautiful prayer you taught us. it goes like this “Now the day is over and the night is drawing nigh,birds and beast and flowers soon begin their sleep……… you were a great role model.

    Mortlan Achaia

  4. lachmin seoparsan said,

    sir you teach me in school i often think of my teachers i was very happy to find you and to know that you are alive god bless you you were a great teacher

  5. Gloria Phillips said,

    Indeed politics helped to destroy the teaching profession in Guyana and this is really sad. Because of this many children will grow into adults who cannot make rational decisions, understand the difference between right and wrong behavior, or appreciate the importance of developing good morals and values.

    Teaching is not the only vocation destroyed by politics. Nursing is another area of great concern. Like teaching, one has got to have a love for humans to be a good nurse. Many of our people will tell stories of the nightmares they face as patients at the various health institutions throughtout Guyana.

    It would be so nice to see teaching return to the days with such dedicated teachers as Mr Randal Butisingh, my Head Teacher, Mr Wainright Richards and Mr Christopher Chichester, to name a few. But of course this will not happen. We just have to make the best of a bad situation.


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